Terrence Payne has lived and worked in the Minneapolis area since the mid 1990’s, building a body of unique work while exhibiting at museum, galleries and universities throughout the United States. His work can be found in private, corporate and collegiate collections throughout the world. Terrence also founded the artist collective Rosalux.
Photos and interview by Kelsey Johnston
Secrets: Where are you from?
Terrence: We moved around a lot growing up. Mostly in grade school I was outside of Chicago in a suburb called Bolingbrook. I was actually born in St. Paul. So it was St. Paul, South Dakota, Omaha, and Chicago and that was second or third grade and when I was in high school we moved back to Omaha. I went to college in Iowa and after that moved back in with my parents who had moved to Memphis and stayed there for a while. When I got out of school I ended up here.
Secrets: How did you achieve becoming an artist professionally?
Terrence: That was always something that I worked towards since probably my last year of school. I took a lot of independent studies so, I was creating art for my self for the first time. That was kind figured out my point of view was going to be and the bare bones of it, that’s what I’ve been developing over the last 15 or 16 years however long it’s been. I got out of school and went to backpack in Europe for a while because I wasn’t sure what to do with an art degree. I went with my girlfriend at the time who was from Iowa and we were living in her parent basement when we got back and I won $400 off her dad from a card game and with that I decided to move up here. That’s kind of where it started.
My first show was at a coffee shop and looking back on it, it was not that big of a deal but, it was then. It was the first time I put a body of work together and had really shown it to anybody and got feedback. It probably took four years to get an idea of what exactly I wanted and it’s constantly evolving.
Secrets: Tell me about your recent work.
Terrence: My most recent show was at the MIA in the fall for the show Flourish. I was there with Jen Davis, Joe Sinness, and Erika Olson Gross. For that was part of that evolution I was talking about before, just constantly trying to refine what I’m doing and where I started from. As far as the artwork goes, my idea was initially trying to represent specific people as portraits and using stories they had told me about themselves and associations I had about their character and assigning symbols or objects to them and arranging them in these interior spaces. I didn’t really think it mattered what people looked like it was more about who they were from what they’ve done. Anyway, I started to loose friends because people were finding out that I was doing pictures of them, I was getting kind of bored with that anyway. So, I started to expand that and think of the portraits as more of Archetypes or groups of people. I figured I could start using figures at that point because it didn’t matter what they looked like I just treated them as another object but, still constantly refining. Trying to clarify the message, make an effort to communicate with people.
With the new body of work that I’m working on now for my upcoming show at Rosalux in April I’ve been able to be comfortable enough with the formal aspects of my work that I’m starting to explore some of the narrative possibilities with things. This show is going to be called “My Apocalypse is Better Than Yours”. (laughs)
I’ve been noticing recently in media and other artists’ work people are using these apocalyptic images and blah, blah, blah and that they think this idea of the world ending is revolutionary, people have been doing it for years. They way people do it has been pretty interesting, people taking this common thread and waving it in different ways in front of people. So, that’s kind of what I’m building off of. I hope to pull it off in the end like a good A-team episode.
Secrets: Where do you begin when making a pattern?
Terrence: It happens a couple different ways one is that I’ll take an image that I’ve used in the past and it becomes something generic enough where I can ask what else I can do with it. The other is just doodling and putting that into a pattern or making it repeat and initially it looses it’s meaning even though it’s there and you know what it is but, letting it get lost and becomes something else. The pattern I made for the Flourish show was from a Barrel of Monkeys, monkeys and you couldn’t really tell that they were even monkeys unless they were told they were monkeys.
Secrets: What’s the best part about Minneapolis?
Terrence: I’m not going to say the weather. Every year I’ve been tempted to move but, I think the reason I stay is two things: the cost of living is pretty cheap so, a guy like me can make a living as an artist and not have to suffer for it and the arts community or the audience is here to participate. I don’t think we would have been able to make Rosalux in any other city mainly due to the support we’ve gotten and the audience we’ve picked up over the years.
Secrets: Tell me more about your experience with Rosalux.
Terrence: I started it. When we started there was maybe 8 or 10 of us. The way it evolved was, well, I was bitching about a gallery I was showing at a gallery in Chicago and I felt ripped off by this 50% business, I was wondering what they were even doing for it. So, we thought we’d start something a co-op. I thought let’s do a co-op but, make it pretty structured so that all we have to worry about is making art and raising visibility of the art. That was the goal. We found this horrible space across the street from You Otter Stop In and it was more of an experiment to see if it could work and we were there not even a year. Our neighbors were an auto body place that exploded because it turned out to be a meth lab. So, then we moved downtown for a while but, we had to get out of there because we couldn’t afford the space. So, we worked out this deal with Chowgirls and we’ll probably be where we’re at now for some time.
I’ve served on and off as the director. My plan was to serve as the director for the first two years to get it started. It’s one thing to put yourself out there as an artist but, being a director is a whole different type of exposure.
Secrets: What’s your favorite establishment in Minneapolis?
Terrence: Creatively, when I’m stumped, I love to go to the M.I.A. and look at the folk art paintings. They are crazy cool. There’s just such a diverse range, I love the Inuit stuff. I like to spend an afternoon in there and recharge and get inspired.
Secrets: Childhood dream career?
Terrance: I wanted to be a cartoonist. Make Saturday morning cartoons but, I’m not nearly as cool or well paid.