Mapping the Landscape of the Soul International abstract artist Audrey Tulimiero Welch brings her layered, place-based paintings to Charles Wright Academy

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Artist Audrey Tulimiero Welch standw with one of the paintings from her “Body Tree Map,” series. Photo courtesy of Audrey Tulimiero Welch

Audrey Tulimiero Welch is not your average artist to show at Charles Wright Academy’s art gallery. For starters, the New Jersey native has spent the last 15 years living and exhibiting in three countries, folding those places into her densely layered acrylics. Since August 2016, however, she’s called Tacoma home. And she’s also a parent at Charles Wright, offering the school a unique window into both her life and artistic process with her upcoming solo show “Body Tree Map,” opening Nov. 9.

“My artwork is a map of my lived experience every day — a specific conversation, a relationship,” says Welch. “I don’t see any demarcation between my life and my work.”

For Welch, who has paintings in collections around the globe and is now represented by Nancy Toomey Fine Art in San Francisco and Danese/Corey Gallery in New York, it’s been a long and colorful journey moving from East to West Coast — a journey that has played out in her art. With a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Delaware and a master of fine arts from the Art Institute of Boston, Welch spent the last 15 years in Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia — five years in each place, where she would walk her city or village and get to know the landscape intimately.

In Sumatra, she was struck by the line and motif used in traditional batik (a cloth-printing process). In Bangkok she fell in love with the saturated colors of garments and buildings. And in Perth she was seduced by the colors of the outback — pale brown, eucalyptus green. Throughout all, she carried with her the memory of the twisted lines of East Coast trees and vines, and of her fascination with the gridded patterns of maps.

All of that comes into Welch’s paint layers. In her light-filled studio high up in Tacoma’s vintage Merlino Building, Welch works on a canvas for months. First she lays down a single color layer with a brush. The next layer might be strands of tape, echoing the lines on a segment of map. Many more layers follow — paint poured from a cup or dripped with a mop, daubs of rice paper, Xeroxed images transferred with gel medium (a kind of glue), even plaster. Finally, she’ll pull off the original tape, leaving an archeology of materials and meaning.

“I’m grounded in the heritage of abstract expressionism, of the intuitive gesture,” says Welch, a petite woman with curly red hair, freckles and an intriguing accent that mixes Aussie with clipped New Jersey. “But I want to juxtapose that with something very intentional, the map line. It’s a structure with the freedom to respond to my materials. And my whole body is involved in the gesture, not just my wrist.” Hence the show’s title, “Body Tree Map.”

Welch will speak about her process at the opening reception, as well as give a workshop to Charles Wright’s painting and drawing class. That’s something that previous gallery artists have done, like Tacoma illustrator Chandler O’Leary last fall, and it’s an opportunity that Welch sees as priceless.

ABOUT THE SHOW

What: “Body Tree Map,” paintings by Audrey Tulimiero Welch

When: Artist reception 5:30-7 p.m., Nov. 9, then open during school hours through Nov. 20

Where: Ted Sanford Gallery, Upper School Lobby, Charles Wright Academy, 7723 Chambers Creek Rd. W., University Place

Cost: Free

Information: (253) 620-8373, charleswright.org

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