Tiffany Bozic is a rare gem of a painter, one who deeply understands the special nuances of the craft and the world from which it stems. Her work is pulled from a vast and intimate collection of experiences within nature and governed by a desire to explore the animal kingdom and the familial ties that underlie it. These magnificent paintings deal with themes of universality, fundamental relationship, life cycles, and the primary need for resting place and habitat.
The artist illustrates interesting parallels between the human and animal world with a unique focus on connection and kinship. Contained within each piece is a moment of exceptional intimacy, traditionally shared solely between newborns and their mothers. Accordingly, each scene is punctuated by the certain serenity that one finds only in the quiet sanctuary of a mother’s embrace. The artist’s extraordinary depictions of natural surroundings coalesce around this theme, mirroring this inextinguishable bond.
The tender fragility contained in the act of nurture is captured in its most affectionate form, as the artist painstakingly accentuates every detail of this process. The outcome is a body of work that invokes that same instinct in us and serves as a reminder of our most essential needs.
The artist’s paintings occur in another realm, one that tends to get lost in the humdrum of the day-to-day. Lucky for us, Bozic expertly captures these fleeting, otherwise unknowable moments in time in HD quality, revealing miracles. Her paintings prompt a shift in viewers’ consciousness, opening the door to a dual reality that lies beyond the purview of the untrained eye. As we fixate on the wonders of these painted worlds, time and space hang in suspension.
In the following interview, Tiffany allows us to share in her rare experience of the unfettered wild, and offers us a privileged glimpse into her encounters with the profound.
It is obvious from your paintings that you are deeply connected to nature. How has this specifically played out in your life with respect to your art?
I don’t see myself as separate from nature. I am an animal with primal emotions and instincts and I process the struggles and triumphs of everyday life through my work. It’s become a coping mechanism.
I know that you do a great deal of travelling for the sake of your work. What is your process for translating your experiences in these foreign natural environments into artwork?
It used to be a challenge for me to find reference material, so I learned it’s more exciting and beneficial to travel around the world taking photos and building up my library. I love to be off the grid. The experiences I’ve had in nature have strengthened my relationship to the natural world and my work. As far as the actual process, though it really depends on the image I am trying to create so it is different for every painting. The visions spring from a very deep seeded desire to understand the mysteries of life and these puzzling questions just sort of merge into my subconscious until I pull them through the brushes. Usually this is a give and take sparked by the events taking place in my life, but I try not to control it too much.
Is it true that you are self-taught? The detail and painterly prowess exhibited in your work belongs in a category of its own. How did you come to be so good?
Thank you, that is very kind to say. I have for a large part taught myself how to paint through trial and error (note mostly error), so I think of it as an innate instinctual desire and practice, practice, practice. Through my travels, I have been able to hold some of the animals in my hands to study them up close, and I learned a lot by skinning birds and mammals for the local natural history museum here in San Francisco called The California Academy of Science collections. So it’s the love for the animals that fuelled the countless hours of details.
While representational, your work is also highly imaginative and surreal, at what point does the work stop being realistic and start moving elsewhere?
I’ve always tried to portrait my existence in the most honest way that I know how. I am an emotional creature and my ideologies are subjective and surreal so to deny this would be to close myself off. In my work, this surreal line emerges and moves around from one painting to the next in distinctive ways, but it’s always there. I’m interested in the how we each perceive reality differently. What I see may not be true for you, but it is real to me.
How did you get started as an artist, what drew you to the discipline and what kind of background were you coming from?
When I was a toddler, I began drawing the animals that lived on our dairy farm in Arkansas. My mother was a schoolteacher and my father an electrician but they were too busy working full time with a farm to run to manage their kids much. So I largely spent my youth wandering alone around my farm with 350 goats, horses, pigs, cows etc. Despite the fact that we were scrounging to get by my parents always encouraged me to pursue art and music, since it was clear from an early age that that was all I showed any interest in besides animals. So after we abandoned the farm and moved up to Ohio I grew quite comfortable in the sanctuary of my imaginary world. By the time, I reached 12 my parents pushed me to start working odd jobs to help so I learned to overcome my own mistakes and trust my instincts early on. But I felt like a poor scrappy alley cat growing up in Ohio with a ‘useless’ skill like drawing. The only professional artist that I heard of growing up was Bob Ross (who had his own televised painting show in the 80’s) and all the dead guys in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
I attended the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, OH for three semesters then dropped out when I was 19 and moved out to San Francisco with a couple suitcases, a goldfish, and my dreams. Within a year I began meeting other artists and showing my experiments in group shows. One show led to the next and soon I started being invited by galleries for solo shows. I didn’t have a mentor or an example that I was trying other than to try to figure myself out. I am grateful my journey led me to where I’m at now.
How has your work changed over time?
In the beginning, I was exploring the world from my viewpoint alone, but I’ve grown and expanded my language to be as universal and relatable as possible using examples found in nature as my metaphor. With each painting, I feel like I’m expanding my own language and discovering new things that I like to share.
What would you say you are able to do better than any other artist you know?
I’m different, but never better than anyone. I think everyone is creative. We live our lives in all kinds of ways that are unique and beautiful. For example, in the way that we love, share, the way we raise our families, the way we build houses, bake pies and conduct an interview! I will say though that I have tried to judge myself not on the outcome, but on the effort that I put into each work. It’s important to me to constantly challenge myself to grow and to be authentic as possible.
What would you say your “weakness” is as an artist and how do you work around it?
The biggest challenge for me is to balancing the creative side with the business side. I feel my most creative when I have complete solitude, which means that over all the years I have been doing this I have operated nearly free of interns and assistants. Since my work is very labor intensive, there is not a lot of time leftover for things like maintaining websites, keeping up with social media etc. I do work with a team of people who help me and there are many great resources for artists now.
How do you decide what your next painting will be?
I very rarely know what my next painting will be. Sometimes the ideas come to me very clearly, some won’t leave me alone. Others I have to chase down and wrangle like a feral raccoon lost in the attic.
There must be some sort of special process behind your work or a kind of extra sensory ability that you possess. How have you come to develop such an intimate understanding and appreciation of nature?
I see a common thread that unites everything around me and my work aims to celebrate this ancient connection. I also have an insatiable appetite for knowledge so I’m constantly digesting scientific literature, travelling as much as I can, as well as listening to podcasts. I also spend a great deal of time outdoors and with my family and friends.
Tell me about the kinds of themes you like to explore.
Well for the past 20 years or so, I’ve been exploring what it means to be human and our emotional connection to each other, ourselves and the rest of the critters that inhabit this world. I have delved into themes such as the universal struggle for survival, the life cycle, love and loss, bonding, motherhood and collective consciousness to name a few.
There is a striking kinship between mother and child and more broadly… mother nature and her children that is evident in much of your work, can you tell me more about this?
Becoming a mother completely changed everything about me. It still seems incredible to me that my body knew how to create a spinal column, a nervous system, and another heart beating inside me that kept growing stronger. While I was going through this mind and body transformation I kept scouring the internet and libraries looking for something to relate to. It felt so special yet as common as dirt so I truly wanted to find some common ground but I was disappointed in how little there was out there around the subject. This baffled me because reproduction is at the very core of what this world is made of. The immense protectiveness a parent feels for their child is such an intense and profound universal emotion shared by the majority of species in this world. Part bouquet of beautiful soft pastel flowers and sleeping kittens, part raging choir of thousands of powerful lioness roaring.