Tiffany Bozic is a San Francisco-based artist who will make you fall in love with a rhino beetle. We talked to her about her techniques, as well as bridging the worlds of science and art.
Using acrylic and wood, Bozic illustrates the natural world she grew up in (on a farm), as well as the one she experiences in her travels to remote locales around the world. According to her own artist statement, Bozic "dives more deeply into the imaginary and darker aspects of the natural world." Her bunnies, turtles, frogs, bats and mice come to life with her acrylic on maple panels more than seems possible with a photograph. She has shown her work in galleries throughout the United States and Europe, and published it in various magazines including the cover of Coast Magazine. She was also an artist in residence at the California Academy of Sciences from 2006-2007. We asked Bozic all about her inspiration and process for creating images like the amazing examples in our gallery, and found out she has pretty much the coolest gig ever.
Do you have a background in science as well as art? Can you describe a little about how you got to where you are now?
I do not have an academic background in science, but I spent the first part of my childhood on a farm and grew up with a lot of animals. So I've been painting critters for as long as I can remember. I moved to San Francisco in 1999, met a community of artists and began showing my work in galleries around town - one group exhibit led to the next. Living in the city I could only get so much out of the books in the library, so I began traveling abroad and working in the collections at the California Academy of Science to get a better look at my subjects. Based off of my field studies and research I create a new body of work (acrylic on maple panel) to fill a gallery space about once a year on average.
How closely do you work with scientists to produce your work?
Well my husband is a scientist so…I'd say pretty close. Actually my interest in animals led me to him because he studies birds and mammals. I gravitate towards people who are fascinated by the natural world and aware of little things that normally go unnoticed such as elephant shrews and poisonous birds. I have been fortunate to be able to travel along with him and many other scientists on several extended trips abroad to help out in the field. Most of the time this means I'm scouting new locations, collecting birds, taking blood samples, setting traps, running the nets, preparing specimens for the museums collection etc. All the downtime left over I am taking photos and recording my experiences on paper to later inform my larger paintings when I return to my studio.
How much creative liberty do you take with the work, or do you make them as anatomically and scientifically accurate as possible?
Though I deeply respect scientific accuracy, it is not my primary goal. I want to capture emotion like music can. I may develop a crush on a beautiful flower and spend an entire day trying to get lost in the color and folds simply because I enjoy capturing the detail in a realistic way. Other days I feel like painting more abstract - there are no rules. As an artist I feel a personal sense of responsibility to myself to explore a sense of awe and fascination. The incredibly important mountain of scientific data we've labored so hard for in search of understanding and finding solutions may not be enough to change our current course for the better and solve our global issues. Which is why I admire people who take children outdoors to turn logs in search of salamanders and get mud under their nails. We have to love nature and recognize that we are inextricably linked to all living things.
Can you describe a little about your process in general and what inspires you?
I'm searching for that moment where I feel completely open. I adore the beautiful and icky things about ourselves we hide from each other. I live for the moments that my friends tell me their secrets. Now imagine a little mouse running across the floor. Some people would run away screaming. But there I am giggling like a 5 year old on my hands and knees crawling after it hoping I get the chance to hold it. Somehow for me, these two things come together and meet in a place where creativity runs wild.
Do you ever have to create an illustration of an extinct animal, or something you've never seen? If so, can you describe your process for that?
I am interested in the process of weaving reality and imaginary into one – to me this seems the most honest way to explore my relationship to the world. I am intrigued with the idea of consciousness – the balance between the rational and emotional. My reality is a product of my brain, my biology. I experience a lot of things that only exist in my imagination and these experiences, like love and grief are just as real to me as the chair I'm sitting in.
Lastly, what are you working on currently or in the near future that you're excited about?
I will be spending my fall back in Papua New Guinea sailing around remote islands collecting birds with a small team of biologists from the Academy of Science. This trip will help inform my next body of work slated to open 2012 at the Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC.