Mar 8, 2024 - News

Artist Tristin Lowe contemplates next big move

"Shooting Star" at the Philadelphia police Regional Tactical Training Facility

"Shooting Star" at the Philadelphia Police Department Regional Tactical Training Facility. Photos: Courtesy of Tristin Lowe

Artist Tristin Lowe makes big things.

State of play: His absurdist work can take years to complete. A massive and rarely seen gold-coated "Shooting Star" hangs inside Philadelphia Police's Regional Tactical Training Facility.

  • The work, which evokes a police badge, took nearly four years to come to fruition and was delayed because it had to be scaled back.

Behind the scenes: That's the dilemma and delight of Lowe's career.

  • For all his success — his work has been featured in an Oliver Stone movie and shown in museums and galleries across the country — Lowe is always looking to create the next big thing.

Why it matters: Even some of Philly's most successful artists feel the crunch of being creative on a deadline.

What he's saying: "The ego is such a f****d up thing," Lowe tells Axios. "I don't know if I should be using this as a therapy session."

What happened: Picasso had his blue period; Lowe is having a dark period now. It comes after he put on one of the biggest shows of his life in 2022, a retrospective called "Black Holes and Rabbit Holes" that combined many of his works in a 7,000-square foot space at the Moore College of Art & Design.

  • It was the first time the college had ever given all its space to a single artist.
  • The exhibition included feats such as a suspended 14-foot neon comet and a 2001 Volkswagen Passat B5 station wagon that poked perilously out from the ceiling.
Art exhibits "Dumbo and Bourbon Pillow," left and "Folding Deck Chair" from Tristin Lowe.
Picture this: Kicking back on a monster lawn chair while watching an elephant fly. Photos: Courtesy of Tristin Lowe and Matt Kavanaugh

Zoom in: Some of Lowe's zaniest projects include "Mocha Dick," a 52-foot sperm whale made out of industrial wool, and a two-story folding chair that has no practical use but is a monolith to his mantra.

  • He's interwoven personal narratives into many pieces.
  • "Dumbo and Bourbon Pillow," a hand-sewn inflatable pink elephant standing over a pillow soaked with bourbon, is a depiction of the famous drunk scene in the 1941 movie. It's also a parable about the perils of alcoholism, something his mother struggled with throughout her life.

Between the lines: Lowe says the "business of art" sometimes gets in the way of the art-making itself. He had a 10-year run during which he did a solo show almost every year.

  • He now wants to get back to the basics of art, which was an escape for him growing up attending Catholic school in Watertown, Massachusetts. He struggled with dyslexia and feared reading in front of his classmates.
  • So he poured himself into drawing, and proudly recalls following the instructions of "Captain Bob" as he sketched a picture of a sunfish.

The bottom line: Lowe is in his creative cocoon, big or small, for now.

  • "I think I'm a nocturnal creature. I'm probably gonna be a moth," Lowe jokes. "A cicada. Could be underground for a while. There's all kinds of transformations."
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