Olivia Tinnin is a senior at Florida State University majoring in fine art, and when we sit down for our interview and begins talking about the local art community, I can see it swirling around her. In the last month when we talked she had curated and put on an exhibition titled “Internal Dilemma,” which brought 30 artists from the college together to present pieces about personal insecurity.
“I feel like I’m a pretty social artist, at least in the context of art,” she says, “And in trying to create communities, collaborate with people, and just learn about people and their art styles, what they’re looking at, and who they are.”
That’s why I love the idea of exhibitions; they’re a collective of artists in the public eye, the outer shell of a person in front of their representation, or expression, of what is often their inner self. I couldn’t make it to “Internal Dilemma” myself, but Tinnin was incredibly enthusiastic about the event as a whole.
“After the exhibition I really like the idea of pursuing a career in Art Management,” she says, “I like being an artist and making art, but it’s also cool to form events where people will come, have fun, and potentially enjoy what’s happening. I just wanted to get a bunch of artists together, have a show, and build a small community.”
I agree, “We don’t have that here.”
“Yeah, or at least it’s in pockets, and I want people to come together into one bigger community.”
What Olivia is talking about is something I’ve noticed about the art community at FSU too. Besides the weekly readings at The Warehouse, I don’t see any great gathering of the artistic minds. They are in pockets like she says. Small eclectic pockets.
Her own art is similar.
It’s a vibrant, simplistic style. It’s full of color and heavy with emotional content. Often they are small printcuts, like a tombstone with an enthusiastic “OK!” emblazoned across. No matter the size of her work, or the medium, I’m always impacted when I look at her pieces, even as a layman of visual arts. But I’m curious how the experience of making art, and learning progresses.
“So, you’re three years into the art program here at FSU. How do you feel like you experience has changed since you got here?
“I think I’m just more comfortable with art,” she answers, “I remember in high school when I was going back and forth about how much I wanted to pursue art I also just wasn’t as comfortable with who I was as an artist. I felt like I was comparing myself way more to other people.”
“Like seeing someone in the engineering program, and being like ew.”
“Yeah, to other majors, and other people in my art classes who I felt were better, or knew more of what they were doing … but I also wasn’t dedicating a lot of time to my art.”
I ask about the “OK!” gravestone, and what that piece in particular represents.
“This past year I’ve been thinking about mortality a lot, the acceptance of death, it’s inevitableness, and the acceptance that I’m alive.
“I feel like at a certain point,” she continues, “you can come to terms with dying, but I feel that a lot of the time I have to come to terms with living, and taking advantage of the fact that I am alive … so the tombstone is a symbol of death, but it’s also trying to humorize death. I feel like people try not to talk about it because it’s marked as such a super-serious subject, whereas it’s just a thing that happens!”
“So if you had one thing to say to someone wanting to enter the art department, or a message for just anyone out there, what would it be?”
“I feel like a misconception of the art community is that it’s closed off, when really it’s super accessible. As long as you respect it, I feel like you can appreciate it … anyone can contribute to it, and I feel that making art is a very healthy thing to do.”
“It’s not an artistic thing, it’s a human thing,” I add.
“Yeah, I feel like making art in any capacity is just good,” she says “and it can help you deal with things, and help you understand the world.”
Perhaps that’s exactly what an art community like the one at Florida State is doing – we’re always inputting the world, processing it, and expelling our reactions. For some people, the reaction is art. Bringing together a collective of people who are active in their own artistic process isn’t easy. Bringing yourself together as an artist isn’t easy either, but Olivia Tinnin seems to have done both.
If you’re interested in Tinnin’s art, check out her Instagram or Etsy (where she sells adorable plush versions of her art).
If you’re interested in getting involved with the art scene here in the Tallahassee area, there are frequent exhibits at the 621 Art Gallery in railroad park, and the Phyllis Straus Gallery. There are also open-mic wednesdays at The Warehouse, and the Jerome Stern Distinguished Writer Series holds readings every tuesday night there as well.