In a world where the word “global” is tossed around as if it were a synonym for “bigger than ever,” Tau Lewis has taken this chaotic state of affairs and channeled it into an absurdist theatre piece where she illustrates the futility of trying to make sense of it all.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Lewis’s work is housed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Her world-building is unique and particularly expansive as it connects myriad bodies of work: each character within Vox Populi, Vox Dei contains fragments of the artist’s earlier projects.
Tau Lewis sees her sculptures as material manifestations of a vital element that powers the cosmos.
Lewis is inspired by our ever-changing environment and the many ways we have adapted to it over time. She considers these changes in both materiality and form as expressions of humanity’s ability to change with its environment. Her work explores these themes through a variety of media including photography, painting, drawing, and installation.
In 2018, Lewis was awarded an honorary doctorate from Concordia University Art School (Montreal). The award recognizes outstanding achievement in art education and acknowledges Lewis’s contribution to scholarship through teaching at multiple institutions across North America over several decades
By transposing the word “voix” from French to Spanish and then to English, Lewis preserves the spirit of the original Latin phrase. The artist suggests in her artist statement that her epic sculptures are part of a global conversation about progress and community that is ongoing throughout history.
There’s something about Tau Lewis’ sculptures that make them feel like they could be real people. Her hyperrealistic sculptures are simultaneously human, mask-like, and surreal. The figures Lewis creates are often hyper-realistic in their features, but with a level of exaggeration that makes them look almost cartoonish at times.
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Lewis builds her sculptures’ frames from architectural foam and then covers them with paper mache, acrylic paint, and modeling paste. While the figures have a naturalism that evokes the Renaissance-era sculptural traditions they’re built upon, they also feature exaggerated features that are highly stylized. Hair is a key point of Lewis’s practice; the artist says she always knew she wanted to focus on hair but was looking for ways to do it outside of the traditional portrait.
Lewis says her work “is rooted in Black diasporic traditions of storytelling.” Her work draws from tradition and mythology to tell stories about our existence in the present day.
Thanks to Lewis’ commitment to the craft and her mastery of materials, her sculptures are beautifully executed — and the worlds she creates through them will continue to resonate with audiences in the present day and into the future.
© All Images Via Tau Lewis Instagram