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Artists Among Us: Mym Tuma

Originally Posted: August 09, 2010


"The Eye of Strombus Gigas," Pastel/BFK Rives, 20" x 30" - 2007. (All images courtesy of artist)


Westhampton - Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Mym Tuma, who lives in Westhampton.

"Florida Fighting Conch," Acrylic/Canvas, 60" x 40"

Born in Berwyn, Illinois, Mym Tuma (a/k/a Marilyn Thuma), studied at Northwestern University in Evanston; at Stanford University in California and at New York University. After graduation, she experimented with three dimensional works in her studio that she set up in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

Moving from her former home in Chicago to the Hamptons in 1991, she said she was "influenced by the abundance of natural forms in the land and sea - the way the land and sea meet, is a metaphor for my mind's eye. The exquisite natural light, and the surrounding environment plays the most essential part of my life."

Her artistic approach, has been predominantly influenced by oceanic and coastal forms. Forms such as beach pebbles, sand, sprouting seeds, and spiraling shell forms.

"The importance of energy is reflected in my work, that need to find a way to physically capture the unconscious artistic impulse, spirals in shells and the abstract shapes of beach pebbles. These are the essential forms I work with. My large three-dimensional sculptured paintings also reflect my love of natural, organic shapes and patterns. I show the spirals in the abstract shapes of ocean waves, the green sea beside the sleeping rock on the beach, so the rock that cannot breathe, is and always will exist, as a monument of eons past."

In 1987 an exhibit of her work hung in Edens Gallery during Columbia College's "Georgia O'Keeffe Centennial Celebration." Tuma first met O'Keeffe in 1964 and during the following decade the two artists discovered several common interests, including an enthusiasm for each other's art. This is shown from the various handwritten letters between O'Keeffe and Tuma found on www.OkeeffeAndMe.com.

"Northern Moon Shell."

In the early 1990s Tuma met Henry Geldzahler, former Curator of 20th Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Commissioner of Cultural Affairs in Manhattan in 1978. "He was particularly impressed with my portrayal of inner light, gave me inspiration, and curated my exhibition at the former Clayton-Liberatore Gallery in Bridgehampton."

In 1992 she lectured at The Brooklyn Museum, and in 2005, Tuma authored "Radiant Energy, Light In My Pastel Paintings." The work is listed in Who's Who In America 2006. Her previous books include poetry in "Awakening The Spirit, The Blue Planet Series," and essays on the creative process in "The Shell Theory of the Sculptured Paintings," and "O'Keeffe & Me: Abstracts of Our Letters."

Tuma's sculptured paintings have been exhibited at museums and galleries, including Guild Hall of East Hampton and the Parrish Art Museum of Southampton. She is a charter member of the National Museum of Women in The Arts, and some examples of her work are on display at The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, as well as in private collections.

"Biota Shells Revealed In Moonlight," 52 x 48, Sand/Acrylics.

When did you start making art and what medium do you consider your root in art?

Mym Tuma: The beginning of my art was experiencing the down-to-earth love of life. We are born out of the rhythms of nature. My ideas germinated from that. It determined the universal forms I create. I find contemporary mediums most compelling - in cloth, paper, paint, epoxy and fiberglass. Abstraction is my root - subjects vary in degrees of abstraction.

What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?

MT: After weeks looking for a New York dealer, a world traveler and friend enticed me to visit her cottage on Lake Montauk, right before Hurricane Bob! Such elemental forces plus the light, the beauty and the graciousness of the natural surroundings are the focus of my work. I find solace and new possibilities in nature's seasons in the Hamptons.

"Storm Surge," Southampton, 18" x 24" - Oil Pastel.

How do you support yourself?

MT: I support myself through my art! I teach, I write, I sell pieces of work. At one of my shows, art dealer Mary Liberatore used to say, "We live in hope, and we die in despair." It's different at different times.

Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?

MT: For much of the same reasons that brought me here. Plus there is a savvy and sophisticated art audience in the Hamptons who value and appreciate good art. This is somewhat of a contradiction. I have an ecocentric rather than an egocentric view! Humans aren't the only species on earth - We just act like it. But, I've found the freedom to express this sense of place good for my creative voice.

"Lunar Crust" Sculptured Painting, Epoxy, 44" diameter.


What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

MT: Exploring the aesthetic bond to the shoreline - bringing awareness to it through the course I teach in pastel drawing. Energy in nature such as spirals in shells and quality of light attracts people to the East End. The real conflict exists in preservation of our shoreline, a deeper awareness; the beached whales that remind us we are living on the edge of a vast wilderness. Life and death are related parts of a continuing cycle.

"The Living Moon Snail," 14.5" x 29.5" - Acrylic.


What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?

MT: I created my notion of organic structure based on unitary biologist L.L. Whyte and some men, like architects like F.L. Wright and Le Corbu before I met Georgia O'Keeffe - the influential elder artist who made a living from paintings in her lifetime. Now the pendulum has swung. Women artists, poets and writers are here. They lead creative lives and bring forth something beautiful from beyond the veil. Women trying to show that idea originates within the psyche just as life originates in nature.

"Utopia" Sculptured painting, Epoxy, 5' x 5' - 2010. (Susann Gude)


What advice would you give an emerging artist?

MT: Trust your passion, trust your inner voice and inner vision. Women have this innate sense of looking beyond the immediate task or moment and seeing the possibilities. Also have a plan, make connections with other people who can help you and guide you.

What gives you an edge (if any)?

MT: The Sculptured Paintings. Yes, their repetition and their rounded contours, moving away from the square or the Grid of the architectural forms. To break away, my intuitive right brain directs my analytical left brain. Art takes both imagination and discipline.

What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?

MT: I'm working on a visual book of my paintings which is "My Life In Art" and it intended to be a beautiful expression of my life in art. We're hoping to have this book finished by the end of the year.

For more information on Mym Tuma go to www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mym_Tuma.


Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.





Updated: August 9, 2010, 12:18 pm
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