777 Drawings to show at THRU Gallery this June.
Nearly two years ago, I was taking an aimless late summer evening walk through downtown Portland. I lived in Goose Hollow and I took frequent walks into the heart of the city. The excitement to build THRU as a magazine enabled me to spend entire days without leaving my apartment — just writing and researching for writing. This was one of those days. Dreaming of a studio location for THRU, I walked into the Jeffrey Center building. Resting at the bottom floor directory was a postcard sized drawing. It was an original piece of art and signed by Keylay Tukor. I brought it home.
It was fortuitous in that I was seeking illustrators to give more character to our blog posts. I showed it to my partner Kate and she looked him up on social media. His photos consisted of desert sunsets, street life, and art. He had been on a road trip giving away drawings for a suggested donation of anything. One of his stops was the Last Thursday art walk on Alberta Street where a bulk of these pieces were given out. We sent him messages in thanks for the image that we discovered. When he got back to us he was already back in Henderson, Nevada, a district of the Las Vegas metropolitan area.
The first piece I asked Keylay to illustrate was called “The Greatest Nation’s Festering Conspiracy,” and it was released on the 14th Anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. He depicts an airplane being guided into the tower by a monstrous figure, blatantly but in another way invisibly, as if just another cloud in the sky (although 9-11 was a cloudless day). The image doesn’t make an opinion but clearly depicts the gut feeling that conspiracy theorists have about the events that took place, and the way that our memory of it could be wrong. I trusted him with controversial illustration from then on.
Months later, Kate and I were passing through Las Vegas, so we had Keylay over to our room. I offered him a beer, but he didn’t drink. The demeanor of any twenty-year old artist could vary, but I found him to be more grounded and focused than average. We learned that he was studying to become a Speech Pathologist to work in a regional school district. Also that his real name is Kyle Tucker, and the pseudonym was just a joke among friends that stuck.
Nearly two years have passed since finding that first drawing. His work has matured some, as it shows themes and ideas repeated over many unique pieces; an artist exploring one image a hundred times. Over the same two years, I found and developed that studio space I had dreamt of for THRU and opened an art gallery. This June, THRU will show 777 Drawings, a collection of (that’s right) 777 pieces by Keylay Tukor.
I asked Keylay where he sees his work going. He responded, “Where I am now with my art is in a youthful state of madness and decay. I am watching the child within me wave goodbye and I am watching the elder within me wave hello.” To embrace the process of aging involves suffering, embracing it as a fact of life, as the elder knows all levels of it. The child only knows light and love, desire and temptation.
His illustration for “Birds Eating Birds” depicts a bird skeleton sporting a halo, and a shawl with a landscape embedded within it. Writer Vicky Gutierrez tells the story of learning about death as a child, her innocence shattered by the image of birds eating smaller birds.
I have found that the more I try to force creation, the more I get in my own way.
Keylay evokes stillness to the discipline of creation. “I have found that the more I try to force creation, the more I get in my own way,” he admits. Spirituality is implied in his other-dimensional drawings — sometimes common symbols such as the Yin-Yang are employed — but it is not all light and love. Perhaps when you think of a spiritualist artist you expect to see what is deemed pure and beautiful in a generic kind of way. Darker realms and figures are commonly depicted in Keylay’s work.
The notion of fame and financial reward for the act of creation is one that perturbs Keylay’s sensibilities. “For me, the motivation to create is ruled by the obsession to manifest,” he says, adding that the self is a layer to the mind, and the mind is a conduit to external forces. “This external source is something that can be viewed as an infinite light, an infinite river, an infinite flow of color and movement.”
Our creative endeavors fruitfully merged in a piece entitled “The Revolving Door of Jihad.” Genderless beings on some kind of invisible track to the desert, passing through North America and the Middle East. Keylay’s illustration helps communicate that no matter what side the war is being fought, there is this endless track of jihadists from generation to generation ready to perpetuate it.
I noticed that the first illustration inspired a series of drawings with similar landscapes and figures. I asked him about it and he responded, “I grew up in the deserts of Nevada so I have been very connected to the desert landscape. The vastness of the desert compels me and I love feeling completely alone.”
Keylay Tukor is influenced by Alex Grey, Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci, Larry Lewis, Anselm Kiefer, among many others. His 777 Drawings will show at THRU Gallery this Thursday and remain up for all of June. To meet the artist, please attend our opening on June 1. Link below for more details.