Art AND: Christine Buckton Tillman

In your studio practice, you are often playing with and addressing color relationships. Can you talk about what being a colorist means to you?

That’s hard because it’s sort of like asking somebody to talk about a thing that you love so much. It’s hard to find the words and the language. Color is super important to me in general and when something is so important to you, you almost don’t see it—you don’t know you’re swimming in the water.

In the studio, I’m most actively working through decisions about composition and shape, rather than color—it’s a little more intuitive. But color is what draws me in and gets my attention and drives the work, and I do a lot of reading about color.

I have another part of my practice that is this ongoing collaboration with an artist in Oakland, Lisa Solomon, and we have this ongoing collaboration we’ve done since 2015 where we crowdsource objects and then organize them by color. We’ve done a number of them, and we do public and private commissions. 

What is your working relationship like with Lisa? How do you balance project management together while living across the country from one another?

I love talking about this project. Lisa and I met on the photo-sharing site Flickr back in 2003 when we both finished grad school. We admired each other’s work and were in the same place in our artistic lives. We always talked about showing together and finally made that happen with a show here in Baltimore, at Gallery CA, called Chroma back in 2015. The collaborative piece was a fun add-on in our proposal, but very quickly it became the focus of the show. We crowdsourced small colorful objects from people online (we were sent thousands) and in person, and arranged them by color on the wall. We installed a different version of Chroma in San Francisco the following year, and were commissioned to make a permanent version at The Wharf in DC in 2018. Since then, we have done several small private commissions and a printed wallpaper version for a corporate space in San Francisco.

We are great collaborators and friends. Project management is no different than working in a remote office; we even arranged a small commission over Zoom using an overhead tripod, and the wallpaper was made entirely by sharing files online. The big install work needs to be done together in person with a team of assistants, so travel is involved for at least one of us. Our dream is to take Chroma to Japan, which would be some big travel for both of us. Fingers crossed.

Would you say that you enjoy taking things apart to put them back together? Is that an essential aspect of what you’re doing?

This is the great part about talking to other people about your work in the studio, I’m not sure I would’ve come up with that language for myself. But I think you’re right, I take things apart to put them back together. I also feel like I want to pair things up and bring things together that weren’t together before to see similarities. 

I’m a big fan of natural history museums, you can go to a display case and it’ll be full of all the birds—they might all be songbirds, or predators, or share a geographic region. When you bring things together, you can make new connections. You can look at things that are really similar and see tiny differences and things that are very different and see similarities.