Wesleyan portrait of Tula  Telfair

Tula Telfair

Professor of Art

Art Studio South, 103

Professor, Environmental Studies


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BFA Moore College Of Art
MFA Syracuse University

Tula Telfair

The action in Tula Telfair's landscape paintings takes place above the level of our understanding, in a place where events are determined, not experienced: her vistas are imagined, not observed. Telfair paints at the intersection of memory and anticipation, transporting us back and forth between what we have experienced and what we want to investigate. To do so, is to expand the limits of naturalist majesty, to move through an endless combination of indefinite time and unknown place with an effortless fluidity made possible by consummate craft. Telfair builds and frames her fictional visions with brilliant color that illuminates her enormous, active and unforgettable skies. Horizons are transitory spaces, alive with the intensity of reflected luminance; clouds are spectacular dramas, unfolding and revealing their tumescent stories. In Pleasure does Not Readily Surrender to Analysis and Exploring the Material Limits, Telfair shows stacked multiple images, exploring the associative power of nature. No two locales seem the same, but the pull of the near-narrative is constant and magnified by the mutuality of time and mood in the choices the artist makes. The golden glow of the hidden sun and the razor edge of the horizon unite the disparate elements with sure-handed confidence and control. There is a nearly geometric progression to these works, their power multiplying continuously as we move from one image to another. Adding to the depth of the spaces and the mystery of the narratives in these works is the realization that the meadows, forests, streams and skies are not contained by the frame, rather they extend before, behind and beyond the edges of the picture plane. In Imagination in the Service of Truth and Is Memory the Product of Historical Time?, the endless horizons are illuminated by a laser beam of white-hot light that compels attention and concentration. The horizon is a chapter in the story each painting reveals, not an event itself. This brilliant light, compressed under heavy skies, is the result of forces unknown, hinting at powerful events that have occurred or will occur in the future Many of the works contain bodies of water. Endless winding streams or completely contained pools reflect the sunlight and the clouds, while conveying the mood of the tales the paintings tell. Water guides us through the paintings, always pointing us toward the subject. Whether flowing or still, the water in these paintings is an anchoring presence that reassures us of the possibilities inherent in the landscapes. Similarly, the mountains do not overwhelm, holding their place against the sky, while never dominating. The paintings are not simply focused on the struggle between the elements of nature, as they are illustrative of the tense harmony within it. The fate of these stories hangs on this fragile balance, resulting in images that excite, calm and fascinate - often all at once. Telfair's paintings achieve their success with incredible economy of emotions and bravura. There is the suggestion of what has happened or will happen, but rarely does she depict a major event outside of nature itself. These are judicious works, subtly modulating their way through the narratives they have to reveal. They do this with radiant light, color and palpable stillness. They communicate by combining stillness with motion, solitude with universality and definition with suggestion. Far from the backdrops of Renaissance landscapes, or the observed travelogues of the nineteenth century, these are fully contemporary paintings in their inspiration and their execution, simultaneously lush and minimal.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Thursday starting at 11:00 a.m. By Appointment ONLY, 103 Art Studio South


Fall 2024
ARST 239 - 01
Painting I

ARST 340 - 01
Painting II