Wood, broken reflectors and metal castings are not uncommon materials for Tanner Young’s sculptures.
Some people see art in music, others through a camera lens or in a pallet of paint. For Tanner Young, art is in everything. From metal tools to scraps of wood and plastic, Young sees beauty, potential and a story begging to be told.
“Sculpture is in itself an absurdity, but makes the most sense,” Young recently wrote in an introduction to his latest collection of work. “Physically and lyrically, it allows experiences to be recalled, our realities to merge and the routine and familiar to become new again.”
Young, is the newest University of Montevallo Art Department faculty member, serving as both an assistant professor and director of the sculpture concentration.
His predecessor, Ted Metz, retired last spring after 42 years in the position.
“We were looking for an exact copy of Ted Metz,” joked Scott Stephens, Ph.D., Art Department Chair. “That kind of energy, ambition, skill, all those kinds of things, were something we were looking to keep in our program. Tanner represented that.”
A Texas native, Young attended the University of Texas at Tyler, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2008.
It was there that Young decided to become an artist.
“I was always obsessed with drawing as a kid,” he explained. “This carried over into high school, and I took drawing classes in college. I decided to keep taking art classes, and then sculpture consumed me.”
After graduation Young enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he worked as an instructor until earning his Master of Fine Arts in 2011.
A year later, he began working at Ohio University as a sculptor, foundations instructor and shop technician.
“The studio, shop, classroom is a contagious and invigorating environment. I am forever a student, and I learn from students and teaching,” he said.
Young heard about the UM position at the beginning of 2016 while looking at jobs online.
Ultimately, it was the University’s dedication and support of the arts which cemented his decision to join the faculty.
“It’s more like a tight-knit community,” he said. “You can tell that the arts are really important to this school, and that’s great.”
The assistant professor made his debut last semester, bringing with him a new range of skills and experiences with which to refine the UM sculpture concentration.
“The curriculum is pretty well set, but part of his job is to start introducing classes that represent his real expertise,” Stephens explained. “We have another faculty director who teaches 3-D design, Lee Somers. We expect he and Tanner to really integrate the digital with sculpture.”
As an instructor, Young varies his teaching style, adapting his methods to be effective in both the classroom and workshop.
“When I’m in the classroom, where there’s not a table saw or drill press, you don’t lose a special power but it’s so nice to jump on a table saw and think about what you are [teaching],” Young said.
In order to teach most effectively, he prefers a combination of classroom and hands-on learning.
“There’s a lot of freedom in it, but you have to kind of be a Swiss Army knife when you’re teaching sculpture,” he joked.
One way he achieves this is by drawing on his own experience as a working artist.
Recently, the Bloch Hall art gallery featured Young’s collection, “riffs, drifts, shifts, and myths.”
The exhibit, comprised of pieces Young completed over the past two years, communicated Young’s current modes of thinking, his behavior and the studio environment in which he immerses himself.
“I use building materials and found objects to construct environments and to tell stories,” he said.
His sculptures, made of wood, broken reflectors and metal castings of tools tell tales of new directions, changing ideas and hope for the future.
As for his future at UM, Young plans to help his students grow both in skill and conceptually in their work as well as make his mark on the University.
“When I got here, I could tell that the program was really strong,” Young said. “What I want to do is continue on that and kind of elaborate on that with a fresh perspective, adding to this rich history and foundation that is already here.”