Life and Afterlife: An Interview with Tyler Thrasher
Tyler Thrasher collects found objects and deceased creatures, takes them home and grows delicate, gorgeous crystal clusters on them. His unique talents for combining chemistry and artistry have gained his work some much-deserved attention. Jux contributor Lauren YS caught up with Tyler to discuss his work, life and extracurricular interests.
"Nature and its respective curiosities. That is my current narrative and inspiration," writes Tyler Thrasher. "My work has always spoken of and about the natural elements and microscopic ones that surround each and everyone of us, the tendencies for humans to trace and follow curious and natural callings, and most importantly, the importance of curiosity and experimentation."
Tyler Thrasher collects found objects and deceased creatures, takes them home and grows delicate, gorgeous crystal clusters on them. His unique talents for combining chemistry and artistry have gained his work some much-deserved attention. He is also a talented illustrator and photographer, a further spin through his website will show.
"For as long as I can recall," continues Tyler," my work has revolved around these things, because I revolve around these things. I am driven by these elements, and in turn they are driving me. Most of my time is spent exploring, reacting to, and prodding nature. Taking any chance I can get to hike, look for caves, find rare plants, dance alongside the fundamental principles of molecular chemistry, and following EVERY SINGLE ITCH.... If I need it, I do it."
Thrasher also recently suffered a fire to his home, destroying many of his specimens. We took this opportunity to learn a bit more about Tyler and his unique take on destruction and creation, and to discuss his work, life and extracurricular interests.
Lauren YS: You grow crystals on forms like dead cicadas, skulls, moths, flowers. What is your curation process for choosing objects to grow on?
Tyler Thrasher: My curation process isn't really a "process". I'm an avid collector of so any things, including remains! Over the last year or two I've had so many skulls, insects, shells, and random pieces of nature come through my space, whether that be via someone on instagram, fellow scientists/ artists, or finding them while I'm out in nature looking for caves. What usually ends up happening is I'll have draws and draws full of dead stuff, and depending on the chemicals and compounds I have on hand dictates what objects I use! Some compounds will nucleate on skulls better than others, and some will eat away at certain materials such as reacting with the calcium on sea shells and such! What I make all really depends on what I have in stock and what compounds will work with certain surfaces!
How did you begin doing this process? Where does your interest in chemistry come from?
I've always been a very curious person! Mainly in regards to the natural world. My interest in chemistry traces all the way back to highschool, where I took my first AP chemistry class, quickly followed by IBHL Chemistry. My teenage years were rough, and that part of my life was a sort of hell for me, and I had lost that natural curiosity during that time. Taking those classes in highschool was a reintroduction to all of the things and curiosities I had lost as a kid, and those classes helped trained me to follow that curious knack, that urge to respond to the call. After I graduated high school I had a newly refound and profound respect for the world around me, which carried on throughout college. I spent most of my time working on non class projects, hiking in the woods looking for cave systems and unmarked formations, doing everything I could to respond and let myself and the world know I cared, and not just cared, but that I was in love. After spending at least 100 hours underground, I began to have a new fascination for mineralogy and crystal formations, which are obviously prominent in cave systems. I was laying in bed in my college house, and the idea sort of just hit me. I had completely forgotten that I could synthesize crystals. It was something we did in high school, and I just wrote it off as a fun science experiment. I began to think of the serious results I could yield by using crystal synthesis as an artistic medium. One thing lead to another and my full time job became growing crystals on dead shit. Pretty weird, but I'm so in love with my job.
You are clearly an artist of many interests. How do you balance those impulses, both creatively and financially?
I do way too much. hahaha. I can't help it. This is a very tough question to answer, and one that I've tried to articulate to other aspring creatives who also have multiple interests. The best way I navigate this particular phenomenon is to make sure all of my urges, knacks, and callings are self feeding and can cohabitate. So for example, I'm fiercely into electronic music, and drawing, and science, and photography, and caving, and botany. Most of my music is inspired by trips, hikes, and caving excursions I take. I use the tone and environment of the music I enjoy and sometimes make to inspire the drawings I make as well. Those drawings only further feed a desire to understand the natural world, because if I want to accurately depict that world- I need to understand it. To understand that world, I need to document it, and to do so I use a camera. After spending way too long editing an image of a plant or animal because it has to meet my visual standards, I have a newly found appreciation for said subject, which creates an obsession. My plant collection often ties into my work, and what I research has a place in everything I make. If you keep it all tied down and connected, you don't have to work too hard to make time or money for it all. It takes care of itself and all of the other members. Now, if I was practicing yoga in caves to help understand sensory deprivation and the curative powers of said deprivation, yet I really enjoyed making drum and bass music because the idea of pushing DAWS and electronic music synthesis to it's energetic limits, that's where I would get in trouble with making time and brainspace for all of it. The times where my interests or projects don't really have much connection occur, I've made a habit of carving out time for them. If I'm working on a song that has no connection to any drawing I've made or any hike I've taken, I detox for a few days and let my brain leave that current obsession at bay. If I have to make that song NOW, I quit whatever drawing I'm working on, give myself a few days to clear it out, and work on that song STAT. Lest it leaves me for someone else! hahaha!
Who are some artists who influence your practice?
There's so so many. Mark Ryden's delve into the esoteric world of alchemy has been such a curiosity and inspiration in why I push the narrative of what it is I'm doing. Roger Hiorn's contribution to the world of crystal synthesis is inspiring for obvious reasons and he's set a standard that is incredibly hard to meet, yet leaves me yearning to at least come close to. As for illustrative side of things, J.A.W. Cooper is a dear friend and incredible inspiration, and always has been. Her dedication to her craft and the amount of respect she has for what she does is humbling and in so many ways, human. And her work is phenomenal. Christina Mrozik's dedication and respect for nature is incredibly inspiring as well! I've done all I can to hone in on her ability to honor and represent the natural world in all of it's macabre and phenomenal beauty. Those are only a few of m favorites, but they're at least the ones I follow adamantly.
Do you ever get haunted by the ghosts of the creatures whose bodies you've grown crystals on? What would that be like? Do you believe in an afterlife?
HAHAHA! Way to send that from 0-60. Let's start goofy, I don't think I've been haunted YET. I like to think the spirits of the bodies I crystallize think that shit's cool and they're totally alright with it. It was either getting crystallized or eaten by a colony of ants if we're being totally honest. But If I were to humor the idea of being haunted by insects, it has a very hellish image. I can picture thousands of cicadas right within ear shot, playing they're loud sweet song as they're trying to get laid, sending me into a manic frenzy and ending with me cutting me ears off, haha! Now for the big question, Do I believe in an afterlife. I HOPE for one. I'd like to think that when we die, this idea of GOD pretty much says, "Hey, I know you were stuck on this rock for like 90 freaking years, so now I'm just gonna let you zip around the universe and see all of this other cool shit, okay?" Of course, I don't know shit until I die and then I wouldn't be able to relay any information regarding a continued existence or consciousness. All I can confidently say is, the good parts to living are too fucking good. The bad parts can go squat on a cactus, but if I could carry on with the things that make living worth while, that would be alright by me. Also if I could zip around the universe looking for interstellar caves. Holy shit.
Your work bears a strong link to the natural world and old hands-on processes. What is your relationship with technology, and do you feel that it either helps or hurts the life of the creative?
I think the hands are a vessel like most other things, and I don't necessarily think the hands are more or less important. They're just a means of exploring our curiosities and creating. I think the only instances technology can 'hurt' the life of the creative is when the creative is in a position to only work via technology and they don't take the time to learn that technology. Digital painting is a huge medium, and one that a lot of people thought would erase the need for traditional painting, or at least this is what I heard in school. And to that, I say bullshit. People are still painting with brushes and canvases and making a living doing so. Being creative and living creative isn't necessarily about staying relevant, unless it comes to social media, which in reality only helps said creative spread their work and ideas. There are so many different ways to create, and there will always be a demographic that appreciates and funds those respective ways. I feel as if the people that declare technology is killing their career and lifestyle are just looking for a scapegoat as to why they haven't hustled enough. I think technology can only really help simply because that's its function. I don't think it necessarily has to hurt.
Which X-Man would you be, and why?
Ooooh I don't know really! I'd probably say Gambit! He has the power to use the kinetic energy stored in objects and pretty much use any of those objects as bullets. Sort of reminds me of atomic nature and how particles work! Also imagine the pranks! And I would win every pillow fight ever. Except I would use those memory foam pillows that weigh 20 lbs, and slowly absorb the life essence of anyone who sleeps on it. Imagine harnessing a 20lb. absorbant brick and sending that at someone!
We were very sad to hear that you recently suffered a fire to your home and studio. How are you recovering and how can we help?
Thank you so much! Seriously! We've received so much love and help and we have everything we could ever need. It feels weird because we're just two tiny humans, and yet so many people have swept us up! We're both alive and well and that's quite literally the only enduring thing that matters! We will be doing everything we can to pay it forward and dive back in to the ring of humanity that's taken such good care of us!
Anything else you'd like us to know?
I'm currently working on my first art book titled "The Wisdom of the Furnace"! The title came to me far before our house fire, and I actually lost 100's of images I had taken just for the book, so I'm in the process of remaking all of the pieces and reshooting for the book! I'm hoping to have everything complete and put together by the end of the year! *fingers crossed*
Follow Tyler on Instagram: @TylerThrasherArt