The Others

Balcones Artist in Residence at the Other Art Fair Brooklyn: Keya Tama

The Other Art Fair has partnered with the award-winning Balcones Distilling to celebrate the artistry of whisky-making and the connection between craftsmanship and creativity for its spring 2024 fairs.

At the heart of this collaboration is the “Spirit of Balcones: Artist in Residence Program,” a new initiative to empower artists to transcend traditional studios and create artwork that showcases their interpretation of bold free-thinking, reinvention, and embracing the magnetic sense of possibility that comes from expressing your full self.

Read on to discover the inspiration and experience of Keya Tama, the Spirit of Balcones Artist in Residence at The Other Art Fair Brooklyn.

Tell us a little more about your journey as an artist.

Since I was young I was surrounded by art, my parents met as teenagers painting graffiti so I was immersed in that world and as I got older I became more influenced by street art. When I was 19, I moved to Los Angeles from Capetown and began painting more canvas works and evolving my practice to where it is today traveling around the world doing lots of large-scale murals and exhibitions.

How did you arrive at this point in your career?

I have always been extremely immersed in the world around me and making murals informed my practice allowing me to make work that incorporated the architecture, people, and nature of its environment. I have been able to mirror this back into my studio practice. I have arrived here by letting my experiences and travels evolve my practice organically, I think this has resonated and drawn me towards possibilities and people that inspire me more and more.

What/who inspired you to get into the space?

My parents Faith XLVII and Tyler B Murphy foremost as they are both multidisciplinary artists, but exceptionally good muralists. I was extremely inspired by Broken Fingaz, Faile, Andy Dixon, and Danny Fox all unique in making art seem more accessible, expansive, and playful while containing great substance.  

What is your unique point of view/drives you to create?

I aim to make work that balances the world by creating calming environments where rare emotions can be felt and collectively touched upon. I am inspired by the things that reflect the past yet hold wisdom of the future within them. I explore this through painting abandoned and desolate buildings and reflecting on what was and what will be.

What message(s) are you trying to convey with your work?

I want my work to allow people to reflect on community, family, love, and nature.

Congratulations on being selected to be the Balcones artist in Residence at The Other Art Fair Brooklyn! 

You were asked to create an artwork that celebrated self-expression and individuality – how did you interpret this?

My work explores themes of past and present and I think this worked seamlessly with how Balcones innovates while paying homage to the past. My installation contrasts these two forces in its use of geometric forms depicting nature creating an unexpected harmony of the ancient natural realm with the geometric man-made.

You often utilize recurring motifs of nature in your work, were you inspired by the nature in Waco, Texas where Balcones is made?

I was very inspired by the Waco Texas landscape, the intense climate, the raw beauty and power of the plants, and beautiful mountains. I loved all the different ways these elements of the landscape could be interpreted to convey different feelings. The landscape can be so calm and then in the next moments so majestic and alive.

Can you describe the themes or message behind your artwork and explain why you chose to create this specific piece in response to the residency brief?

The mural was inspired by the vastness of nature and timelessness. There seem to be endless metaphors and hidden depths within the land itself. By simplifying the components of the environments into their essential forms it allows them to speak to each other in a new way. 

Can you walk us through your creative process and approach to crafting this artwork?

I was actually visiting Texas when the mural was being contemplated and through this got a strong sense of its history and contemporary spirit. I found key elements that represented the landscape and let them come together in a mosaic-like pattern that emotionally encompassed my impression.

The Other Art Fair visitors loved your artwork! How was your experience attending the fair and meeting visitors on opening night?

I had such a fun time meeting so many great artists and old friends. It was a very inspiring evening and I was taken aback by how friendly and supportive the atmosphere was.

It was such a great experience the mural was so well received and I could sense that it really shaped the experiences of everyone coming by.

What would you say to other artists approached to be a Balcones Artist in Residence?

I would say to really think about the way in which you can tell the story of Balcones simultaneously telling your own.

Tell us why art fairs, like TOAF, are such an important part of the artistic ecosystem and why is it so critical to support independent artists.

It is vital that TOAF exists so that independent artists can have a voice, and innovate creating new pathways and possibilities for future generations of artists from different backgrounds.

Looking back at your younger self just starting out, what would you want to make sure to tell that person?

I would say to look inward and create with intuitive confidence.