Award-winning artist’s work displays diversity, absurd creativity

Travis Townsend
Art Gallery
Sierra Owens-Hughes, junior art major, explores the work of Travis Townsend’s recent sculpture and drawings Feb. 24. The work will be displayed in Union’s art gallery until April 10. | Photo by MiKalla Cotton

Union’s art gallery will feature the works of artist Travis Townsend beginning from Feb. 24 until April 10.

Townsend’s artwork consists of mixed media paintings and a series of sculptures made using reclaimed wood, acrylic paint, string and other hardware store materials.

Haelim Allen, assistant professor of art, suggested that Townsend’s work be featured in Union’s art gallery because of his multi-faceted work, which incorporates drawing, painting and sculpture.

“I believe viewers will be intrigued by his work, not only by his process of creation but also by what is to be garnered from these layers of material and visual components,” Allen said.

Townsend was invited by Union’s Art Department to display his artwork in the gallery. Art department chairman Lee Benson said variety is important in an artist’s work.

“We look for diversity in medium and style, smart work with something to say, challenging work that requires consideration,” Benson said. “We take suggestions from the art faculty, and look for artists with interesting ideas that are being done in the best and most appropriate way.”

Townsend’s work has won him numerous awards and grants, such as the Virginia A. Groot Foundation Sculpture Grant and the Raphael Founder’s Prize in “Transformation 7: Contemporary Works in Wood.”

“Sometimes I call the work weird, useless craft objects, other times I might refer to them as three-dimensional sketches, but really they are sculptures that reference toys, tools and other things,” Townsend said. “I think I’m trying to cram all of my interests, drawing, painting and woodworking into one object.”

Townsend said the reason he makes art is to feel the joy of creating and also to connect and dialog with other artists. He is inspired by the works of artists such as H.C. Westermann, Martin Puryear, Richard Deacon and Robert Arneson.

Besides, Townsend said he is also constantly recalling childhood memories and imaginations to seek for inspiration to create art.

“Legos, monster drawings, building snow forts and tree forts, trying to dam up the creek near my house and building skateboard ramps were all fun,” Townsend said. “I took pride in the fact that I could always make things interesting, at least to me.”

However, Townsend described his early days of studying and making art as overwhelming until he realized how to find his own “voice.”

“I had an ‘aha’ moment in college, around my junior year when I realized that I didn’t need to worry so much about making ‘good’ art but making things in the same all consuming and sometimes absurd ways that I did when I was a kid and teenager,” Townsend said.

He explained that the creation of his artwork is an evolving process and there is no set design to follow.

In fact, Townsend said he often cut apart and rebuilt his art over time.

“Through this method of construction and reconstruction, I am able to intuitively build and then, at a later time, make necessary changes,” Townsend said.

Besides being an artist, Townsend also is a senior lecturer at Eastern Kentucky University and teaches drawing, design and concepts to art students.

“Teaching can be a lot of fun, and on the good days when I am open enough to notice, I learn quite a bit from my students,” Townsend said. “It is especially rewarding when your students graduate and go on and do interesting things.”


A reception for guest artist Travis Townsend will be held at 5:30 p.m. April 10 in the Union art gallery.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream