TARA CENTYBEAR by Margaret Hernandez



 North County based artist, Tara Centybear creates a somber but yet tranquil painting series that explores the intersection of pain in beauty within the human experience.  Her subject, both living and perished birds, represent beauty as a security and the abstract subject of emotional identity which in a traumatic loss, beauty can be redefined.  Little Death combines vibrantly colored birds and their feathers with cool gray toned backgrounds while interjecting objects such as a bag, brick and string, which reflect what the artist refers to as “clashing experiences” akin to the mark a trauma that can often confuse the difficulty in ones life with the beauty. 



Tara Centybear, a San Diego native, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she got her BFA, and Goldsmiths College, University London where she attained her MFA, graduating with Distinction.  In addition to her work as a contemporary artist Centybear has worked as a fine arts curator throughout San Diego for the past decade.  Currently she holds the position of Collections Manager/Curator at the San Diego History Center and is an adjunct teacher in the art department at MiraCosta College. 


Q & A with artist Tara Smith

Why dead birds?

They encapsulate a balance of serenity and loss that I am looking to discuss. Birds, coated in their feathers are almost packaged, presents wrapped in nice colorful paper. I have chosen to work with dead birds, but birds that through their physical form do not reveal or concentrate on the way they died. This is to celebrate the life, not the death of the animal. They are each a symbol of the little deaths we all have throughout our days, weeks, months, years, and decades.  From childhood to when our own end comes. The trauma of being picked on in school, of living through horrid world events, abusive encounters, loss of loved ones, of all the things that happen to us all that inform who we are, and who we become. The paintings are sad to grieve for those traumas, but in their beauty they pay homage to how important each struggle we all go through is.  We need those traumas to become our most interesting, strong, and gorgeous selves. 

The juxtaposition of the perished birds with the other inanimate objects is a way to discuss the clashing of experiences, hiding of pieces of ourselves and so forth. In all my works, for some reason I am not quite sure of I always cover things with other things, put things inside things so that they visually disrupt each other


What is it about birds dead that is so much more beautiful than say a dead squirrel. Why do we identify with that?

Birds have been symbols of ‘other worlds’, the heavens, love, loss, freedom and so much to us humans for centuries.  We are drawn to them at times, afraid of them too. To me, the dead birds are precious and vulnerable to their surroundings, just as we are. Maybe other animals might work, but for me at this time, birds were the only option.

Birds are a symbol of freedom. Is death also freedom or is it just about the contrast of stillness and flight?

Painting flight would be so boring. A painting of a bird in flight is about that one split second in its entire life, whereas painting a dead bird is about its entire life. It is universal and talks about the whole being, the soul, the end, the mortality and shortness of life.  

What is the role of death in your work - or is that secondary?

It is almost more about finding peace, whether living or dead. The still object means such a different thing, than one in motion. So even though I paint dead things it is not about death at all. Each bird is a symbol for one person’s suffering.  The paintings are about life and living it to its fullest, it is acknowledging the complexity of what trauma brings to a person. That there are good things that come from that trauma, whatever your personal trauma(s) is, and that makes the hatred of that trauma hard… when you know it is a part of you now.  If you hated the horrid things you went through you would hate part of yourself.  We can’t hate ourselves and thrive. 


What role does art play in the community and what type public art would like to see more of?

Art has the ability to communicate things that language on its own often fails at. It is a means to discuss and question sometimes incredibly difficult subjects. Art gives us an entry point, a joining link of communication between different demographics, social, and political groups. 

As far as public art, the more site-specific, conceptual, interactive and time specific work in our city the better.  Through these vehicles, artists can inspire new conversations in the community, ask people to question the world around them, and give the public a chance to experience art on their terms. Public art steps out of the museum and gallery walls and has a strength in that it can reach those that still feel, much due to the elitism of the past (and still present to a degree), that museums are not a space for ‘them’.

SHIRIN TOWFIQ | SOFT & SENSITIVE by Margaret Hernandez


Q&A with artist, Shirin Towfiq

Why soft and sensitive ?

Soft and sensitive was made from a place of just being tired and aware of everything that’s going on right now in our society and not wanting to be angry anymore and shifting to this place of becoming vulnerable.


Do you practice a faith? What is it ? Did your faith give you the strength to use your voice to ignite social change?

I am a member of the Baha’i Faith, a world religion that believes in all of the past major religions and one God. The Baha'i Faith's goal is to unify the world so it’s very social action and grassroots based. It’s about getting people to care about their communities and being of service in their daily lives. 


How do you decide what community to inform and create with?

I’m open to anyone that reciprocates my openness I think. I often don’t make premeditated decisions on who I work with but it comes organically out of the people I meet in my life. I don’t make my work for any specific audience but it is very much in dialogue with women of color- communicating to them and people who are not them. 


What's the significance of bread? How does it convey the message of social change?

Bread is historically thought of as a basic human right in almost every culture. A comfort that everyone deserves. Nowadays, bread is easily accessible in our society through the industrialization of food production; it’s not “bread” that we need anymore, now the basic human needs are immaterial—equality across all people, access to education, justice.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed and unheard?  What personal andsocietal problems leave you feeling soft and sensitive ?


What makes me soft & sensitive is the lack of understanding and compassion in my world. Where the world is at right now is overwhelming but that’s more reason to work hard, get involved in social causes, and to be on our best behavior towards others to changeour own families, and then our communities, and so on. Even the smallest actions are impactful and heard. The practice of making these videos for the show is personally important even if it's just for me to grow out of these places that make me feel like giving up and instead keep working towards these goals. 


How does this series relate to you personally?  Do you see the communal and universal connection from that? If so explain the relation. 

The series contains struggles and realizations/awakenings, this is naturally a part of my life and all of our individual and social lives, as humans we are highly affected by others and our environment. The series is not meant to show one specific social problem or solution but to suggest many different readings.



Most of your video work has no sound? Why is that?

I think there should be more instances of quiet, and it’s often not given to us. The work is allowing more of that space for reflection and bringing safety. 




How did you choose the people in your video? Mostly women and why? And why aren't you in the videos?

I wanted a range of people from many backgrounds, including a wide variety of ages and colors along with gender. The people in the videos are who I had access to and who were ready to volunteer to be part of a project like this. I’m in a few of the first videos but quickly realized I needed to be directing people and how they’re moving from the other side of the camera to get what I want.  


What are your HOPES for the world?

For there to be more empathy, compassion and understanding. 

How often are you eating bread and what's your favorite?

Ha probably everyday, I’m either eating sangak (a persian flat bread), or Bryan Truitt’s homemade sourdough bread. After eating his bread I can’t enjoy other breads anymore, it’s so good, he mills his own grains and makes everything fresh. 


Will you continue to expand soft and sensitive ? What would you include?

I still think that these are the beginning stages of the soft and sensitive project. It’s hard to say what will happen next, that comes with reflecting on the pieces over a period of time and getting more critiques on it.

Your favorite artist?

Jon Rubin.

Do you use your art to offload?

Definitely. I use it to work through my own personal problems even when the work may seem distant from that. 


What music do you listen to?

I’m not even sure, my taste in music is pretty eclectic. When this project started I was listening to Solange’s album A Seat At The Table non stop. 

What's your racial background and do you believe in intersectional feminism and why?

I was born here in Oceanside to two persian immigrants, so yes. 

What's a childhood memory that's still vivid today?

I used to wake up early every morning and walk to my grandmas house where she would braid my hair and feed me until my mom came to pick me up for school with my brothers. That moment we shared every morning makes me happy when thinking back on it. 

Youre a young woman. Where do you see yourself at 40?

Teaching and making art non stop still. 

Maybe even owning a business. 

Has your family played a role in your art?

I think so, often I consider them when I make my work. Their stories, who they are, who I am in relation to them. 

Is there a quote that best destined this body of work? 

I like this one: “The realities of things have been revealed in this radiant century, and that which is true must come to the surface. Among these realities is the principle of the equality of man and woman--equal rights and prerogatives in all things appertaining to humanity.” - The Promulgation of Universal Peace


JULIA HILL | HYPNAGOGIA by Margaret Hernandez

What inspires you?

I find myself having constant inspiration from several different aspects of life. Nature, space and the universe, the mind and how we perceive things, energies that are inside all human beings and how we are connected through this. Also several creative outlet like film, music, paintings, installation and sculpture. In down to random discoveries like going to a thrift shop and seeing the artwork sold there or seeing a child create something purely out of their imagination. 

What inspirited this piece/idea?

The show is heavily inspired by how the mind perceives different stages of sleep, how the subconscious controls every facet of our lives and how you can start to find answers to things in your life by going through your subconscious in certain stages of sleep. 

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?

Lately I’ve been working with this idea of allowing my subconscious to create the images instead of going about creating artwork in a very structured way. I make a mark on paper or canvas and allow myself to sit with the piece until the piece itself tells me what to do next. I’m finding myself constantly thrilled to see what images arise out of it. Whether abstract or figurative I’m constantly maintaining a level of interest and intrigue and I think it’s the happiest I’ve been while making an image. It’s unstructured and a really put way of creating an image. 

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why? 

I really enjoy my sculpture, installation and a couple of my abstract ratings. i feel like these really capture what it is to create work from the subconscious. I’m really invested in these works and its been really fun creating them. 

What are most of your dreams about?

My dreams vary. A lot of them were nightmares and night terrors which actually propelled this subject matter in the beginning. I was curious as to why I was having so many of these nights terrors and so I started to create images that were based on them; maybe using it as a therapeutic outlet for these dreams. I’ve been really trying to hone down that act of lucid dreaming lately and those dream can be anything from flying and test the limits of music dream to trying to talk to people and connect with them in the dream world. 

Do any of your artwork reflect your fears and how does this fear present itself in your dreams?

I think it does. I don’t know if I’ve really tapped into what these nightmares reflect just yet. Maybe I haven’t come to terms with it, but I would say mostly fear of loss, companionship and death. 

What’s your next project?

I have a few I would like to explore. I’m really interested in expanding this subconscious painting method I’ve been working with. I also want to create an apparel line that is basically a non profit where I donate the majority of profits to a charity or foundation that helps the environment, women’s rights etc. 

Does every person, place and thing in your dream represents you, the dreamer, communal and universal connection? How do you relate?

I think dream always have a connection to me the dream in some way. Some are more prevalent as to why they are connected to this world of dreaming and i think there is something interesting about becoming connected through this subconscious world. I think we take i so much as human beings, constantly inundated with information that during sleep is a time for your brain to process this information and distingush the sense from nonsense in a way. It’s like a filtering process and I think it helps to see and understand things that you may not have really understood normally. 

What are you listening while painting?

I’ve really been into podcasts lately so I’ve been listening to a lot of Artist Decoded, StarTalk, My Favorite Murder, Astonishing Legends and the Paranormal Podcast. 

Do you ever catch yourself overthinking your artwork?

Constantly. That’s actually what propelled me to start this subconscious art making idea. I’m so weird to make images a certain way because of my school training that I started to feel like it was too structured and too formulaic. Now that I’m stating to create images in this subconscious way I’m starting to fall in love with my pieces again. 

JUAN BEAZ | MAY 2017 by Margaret Hernandez

Getting inside the mind of HSCC artist, Juan Beaz                                                            

How old are you?                                                                                                                                   24 in human years

What was your favorite cartoon when you were eight years old?
8? damn, whatever Nickelodeon was feeding me. Spongebob, Rocket Power and all that junk. Catdog was still around. Props to whoever came up with that insane idea.

What are you thinking about when you are creating art?
I try and stay focus on whatever I'm working on and not get too distracted with the outside world. I love getting lost in the photos I'm working with, especially those from the past. They take me back to this time that doesn't really mean anything to me, but at that moment I begin to feel some sort of connection. It feels liberating, even more so when i take said pictures and create my own world.

What kind of people do you find yourself gravitating towards?
For the most part I gravitate towards weirdos. The good kind of weirdos. People who are passionate about creating. People who are unfiltered.

What do you listen to while working?
Music plays a heavy role in my creative process. Recently I've been listening to Chicano Batman. It’s been so long since a band has shook my soul as much as they have. Earlier in the process I was listening to some live recordings of Leonard Cohen. The new Thundercat record, Drunk, has been in rotation as well.

Why do you like collage?
As far as art goes, collaging has been the easiest and the most fun to work with There's not that much discipline involved in this medium. What makes it fun is that It's like working on a puzzle with endless amount of solutions. The pieces are there, I just have to piece it together. This makes concepts easy to come by.

Do you ever  collage conversations?
A good conversation is essentially a collage. Next time you have a conversation with one of your good buds notice how your conversation intertwines topics, themes, ideas, etc.

What has you screaming inside ?
Im not screaming inside. It’s unhealthy. If something is bothering me, i will try and make change. We are all in this fucked situation we created. It started hurting me, so I’ve done my best to better the situation. We have a lot of work to do, but if we hold it inside, we aren't going anywhere.

Do you want an audience who will evolve with you?
Yeah i do. I’m tired of seeing boring art. that’s all that is mainly cultivated here. People need to be weirder. This is just my point of view, but as an artist you have the opportunity to test out your wildest ideas, so why not explore it and let your mind run wild? The same way I am fueled by other weirdos, I hope people look at my stuff and are filled with some sort of inspiration.

Do you ever have images of conflict u must create?                                                                             I don't do this all the time, but there's some serious conflict going on is whenever I use religious imagery. I don't mean to be disrespectful to those who practice Christianity or Catholicism, but occasionally these images are so ripe to use that I have to. People might get the wrong idea and think that I am using them invoke mockery or blasphemy, but in actuality i am using them because the emotion in the imagery is raw. The concept of devotion and worship is very powerful and not using them would be a missed opportunity.

Do you ever feel like your work can improve if so how?
Definitely, it would be ignorant not to think so. I haven't been doing this long enough to think I’m great at what I do.

What are the personal, communal and universal connections in your work?
In all my collage work I try and keep a good medium in surrealism without being too absurd. It's something I've been fascinated with for a while now, which can be traced back to when I first started collaging. I like to believe that my work is a reflection of me in some form. Wether it's the colors i use or the imagery incorporate. It is all influenced by my experiences on earth.

What don't you eat?
Up until last November I was a full time vegetarian/pescatarian for about 8 years. I sort of am still, but I gave up the whole disciplinary aspect of it. Today I might eat some sort of meat every few months or so, but not too often.

Did you belong to an art community growing up Vista?
Nope. I was never involved in the art community. If I'm being real, I didn't really care about art in the community. Recently I've been trying to get involved a bit more and help it grow locally. I hardly saw people like me getting involved so

When did you discovered art and when was the first time you called yourself an artist?                 I got into art around my middle school years. I pirated a copy of photoshop and messed around with it for a couple years. Nothing good came out in those 3-4 years.
I don't think I considered myself an artist until my first years in community college. That's when I participated in my first show, connected with different artist and really began embracing art.

What's your art contribution to your community?
Earlier this year I started a project called Misprint Zine Press. It's currently on hold since I've mainly been focused on Alimentos, but the whole concept of it is to improve the accessibility of zines in my community. Zines are super rare here (Vista) and I want to change that.
I also got bored of just distributing my own zines, so i figured I'd keep it interesting by promoting and distributing other artists work and ideas. My goal is to have it operate like a mini library, but with new content constantly being added.

How has family inspired your art and process?
I come from a pretty big family, 11 brothers and sisters, so naturally family has had a huge influence. It's not apparent in the work itself but I am a product of them all.

Who are your favorite artists?
The first artists that always come to mind are Storm Thorgerson and Sonny Kay. They are probably the sole reason why I got interested in art in the first place. They are both from different eras but both are responsible for creating album art for some of my favorite records. Their influence was heavy when I first started getting into collaging, but i sort of ended up cultivating a different style. For this project I drew inspiration from the works of Alejandro Jodorowski, Jeff Jordan, and Dali.
For those who are unfamiliar, Jodorowski directed a film called Holy Mountain, Jeff Jordan is a painter who paints collage based imagery, and Dali is this fairly unknown artist who published a surreal cookbook during his heyday.

Describe your dream studio and what's the next project?
fuck a studio, I need library that’s stacked with magazines and photo books. that’s all i need. Specifically publications with images from Mexico from the 70s and 80’s. I was able to find one magazine and one book from this era, which i pulled some of my favorite images for this project.Other than that, all i need is a cutting mat, glue stick and my knife. I’m pretty versatile.
For my next project I'm definitely ditching this collaging stuff.


 Studio vists are key. It gives us the opportunity to get a progress check, provide feedback and gain a better understanding of the artist and their process. 

Experimentation is central to my work. When I come upon a new material its physical potential elicits my desire to experiment with it, and so the work evolves. The more I continue to produce art, the more I realize that my best work derives from unconscious play. The best works tend to present their concept after the work has begun.

The impossibility of understanding in advance how an artwork will evolve as I work peaks my interest. When I produce a work that I feel is successful, I make several more of its kind. However, mass production of the same kind couldn’t satisfy my inventive nature.

I have an interest in how figures and abstract forms interact with the spaces that they inhabit. I use the expressive potential of materials to explore their qualities as contained or expanding, crushed or floating upward, heavy and dark or light and airy, textured and natural or smooth and manufactured. To emphasize form, colored pigments are used sparingly. They are used to either accent the natural color of materials or to draw the eye.


An exploration of new visual forms and the expressive potential of created materials.

by Dean Ramos