Interactive paintings you can touch and hear

Thomas "Detour" Evans, KDOT, 2015
Thomas “Detour” Evans, KDOT, 2015.

Most visual artists prefer that viewers do not touch their completed works whether on display at a museum, gallery, or studio. Thomas “Detour” Evans, is not of that mindset. The 30-year-old emerging artist creates interactive paintings that are meant to be tapped at designated points to emit music in a series dubbed, Art and Decibels.

On the surface Detour’s works are meticulously painted portraits of popular musical figures such as Nas, Janelle Monáe, and Kendrick Lamar. But beneath the images lies an innovative technical approach using electric paint, music software, and circuits. The Denver, CO based artist applies electric paint over dark areas of his paintings, which act as the touchpoints. From there he collaborates with local musical talent such as multi-instrumentalist producer, Felix Fast4ward to create beats that are installed on the painting’s circuit boards. On average each painting has 12 touchpoints with each one delivering a unique sound.

But along his artistic path Detour lost touch with his dreams and almost missed hearing his own calling.

Thomas "Detour" Evans, The crate Digger, 2014.
Thomas “Detour” Evans, The crate Digger, 2014.

Prior to his full-time art career he worked in graphic design, marketing and communications. During an eight-month volunteer project in Tanzania for the nonprofit Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania, he had an epiphany. “Living in Tanzania I did bucket showers carrying my own water and it was hard living compared to America,” he said. “But being with the kids there it didn’t matter how hard the living was because I was happy. When I came back home I decided instead of pursuing a typical job to go for my dream.”

Thus far that dream is paying off. In the Denver area his paintings are steadily selling with prices starting at $1,500. Detour eschews traditional marketplaces such as galleries. Instead he opts to display his works in high-end sneaker stores, restaurants, and dispensaries. It is part of his approach to bridge the worlds of art, music, and the audience. “Most of my audience you won’t find in high-end galleries,” he noted. “I have to be where my audience is which is more important than being at the high-end gallery where you are supposed to defend the work as opposed to execute it and make it art for the people.”

And he is focused on taking the people to what he considers the future of art through his interactive elements. “Even when I tell people to touch and play on the painting they don’t believe it. It is like a 2050 type of thing I am bringing to 2015.”

For a detailed look at Detour’s work check out a behind-the-canvas video here.

Afrofuturism inspired theatrical event with a message for today

Image from "Prophetika" Credit: Sofia Berinstein
Image from “Prophetika” Credit: Sofia Berinstein

Bridging the past with the present and future is at the heart of Afrofuturism, an aesthetic shepherded by the likes of artists including Sun Ra, George Clinton and writer, Octavia Butler. The genre’s theme of black liberation and self-expression through the fusion of art, science, and technology informs the new theatrical work, Prophetika: An Oratorio, which runs at The Club at La MaMa, beginning March 20 through April 5.

To read the entire column click here.

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