My work exists inside of three foundational frames. Frame one speaks to the study of the Black experience from past to present and beyond. History has a funny habit of repeating itself, being manipulated and presented differently than it occurred. The key variable of any history is the author. By hiring myself as author, I inherit the ability to influence other storytellers to add their own chapters.
Frame two is the act of elevating the medium of collage to its proper placement alongside painting, sculpture, and photography in the canon of fine art. My collages take several forms, from moving image to paper cuts, layered photographs and manipulated documents. The act of collaging is taking existing material and giving it new life; a practice I repeatedly apply both artistically and personally.
The compilation and presentation of these stories and collages become an act of archiving; the final frame of my work. These frames act like braids and weave together a rich tapestry that can last longer than human memory. As a descendant of slavery with no access to any familial lineage or history beyond my great grandmother, archiving the history of my family from this generation forward becomes crucial to the stories my family can tell later on down the line.
Tay Butler is a multi-disciplinarian artist based in Houston, Texas and working in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Currently an MFA candidate of the University of Arkansas’ Photography and Studio Art program, Tay graduated in May 2019 from the University of Houston with a Bachelors, Fine Art in Photography and Digital Media. Tay is consistently building a portfolio of 2D and video exhibitions as well as performances from Project Row Houses in Houston to Communication Gallery in Madison, Wisconsin.
Through a rich appreciation for Black history and visual arts, Tay retired from the US Army and abandoned a dream engineering career to find purpose, soon uncovering a deep love for photography. Studying the likes of Gordon Parks and Carrie Mae Weems led him to the work of his biggest influences, Lorna Simpson and Romare Bearden. It was there where his obsession with collage was born. He soon began combining his original photography of his native Milwaukee, Wisconsin with found imagery of Black people from a multitude of sources, completely reframing his memory of home and creating new stories balanced by historical context. Tay has showcased his historically-rich images and video through numerous exhibitions in and around Houston while building a solid presence through social media. When not visually exploring the past, present, and future, he is working on numerous projects for an assortment of collaborators.