Tyler Thrasher

I discovered Tyler Thrasher’s art through a mutual friend, J.A.W. Cooper, who posted his work on her Instagram page. I was intrigued by the work right away, but it wasn’t until further investigation that I realized, he was crafting his art in the Ozark Mountains, a source of inspiration for my own body of work. The overlapping themes were so apparent, you couldn’t ignore the distinct influence of the Ozarks.

How did you meet J.A.W. Cooper?
I was introduced to her work while looking for inspiration in one of my undergraduate courses. My instructor had informed me that we had similar subject matter and ways of cropping our work, so I looked her up and have been a fan ever since. When I started my alchemy series and crystallizing cicadas, I thought I’d send the idea her way since I had seen a lot of cicadas in her work. She got back to me and told me she had loved the idea and we did an exchange. I ended up getting an amazing original sketch from her in exchange for some of my crystallized cicadas!

You talk in your bio about your work changing when you moved to Springfield, Missouri, can you tell me about what you were making before you moved?
Before I moved to Springfield, I was still exercising the basics and fundamentals of drawing and design. I was doing a lot of illustrations and drawings. It wasn’t until I moved out for college that I began exploring my own ideas fully and branching off in my own direction.

Was the change sudden or gradual?
The change was pretty gradual. When I moved to Springfield I began writing and composing electronic music, hiking, and furthered my knowledge and love of chemistry. Over the course of 3 years at Missouri State University, I began caving, releasing my own electronica/ ambient albums, and began writing papers on esoteric/ medieval alchemy for my classes. All of these experiences eventually led to my current project!

I grew up running through caves in the Ozarks and celebrated my 6th birthday in a cave. Tell me about your caving adventures. Did you do much caving before moving to the Ozarks? How did you get into it and do you have a favorite cave?
Before I came to Missouri, I had never stepped foot in a cave, and to be honest, I never truly understood the fascination with crawling through holes in the ground. That is until I tried it. My first caving experience was truly a rebirth of my person, passions, and ambitions. I was invited to visit Skylight cave in Ash Grove, Missouri with a small outdoor adventure group on campus. When I first stepped through that opening, I was speechless- surrounded by towering rocks, looming boulders, vast tunnels, and the famous skylight. This skylight filled the room with rays, giving a temporary reminder of the world above me. I was truly in another world. It was at this moment that I felt like I had understood the philosopher’s stone- a gem capable of providing infinite knowledge, potential, and immortality.  I had found my journey and my calling. I looked down the tunnels ahead and was compelled by their mystery, secrets, and the harsh, relentless, and exhausting adventure ahead- I was in love. Ever since Skylight cave, I have been traveling around the country- caving, exploring, and ridge walking -looking for any experience or excuse to be underground. So far I have explored over 40 caves, and plan on raising that number exponentially by the end of the year. However, Skylight will always have my heart.

Can you tell me a bit about your process? How do you grow these crystals, do you do a lot of tests or are your “tests”, your pieces?
The process begins with taking various salts and compounds that occur in the form of minerals in nature. I will dissolve these compounds into super saturated solutions, and grow a series of seed crystals over weeks. I’ll then pick my favorite seeds from the batch and insert them into my pieces and place them in a new solution, which will yield larger crystal growth, and eventually attract smaller crystals around the seed, completely coating the objects. This process was tricky to nail down at first, as I had to figure out how to promote growth directly on the subjects, rather than the container itself, so I spent a couple of weeks understanding the chemistry behind crystallization and the molecular geometry behind the compounds. Once I felt like I had a clear understanding, I began working on crystallizing my pieces and learning how to control the growth where I wanted. Every now and then I get a piece that has gone AWOL and completely out of my control and sometimes those are my favorite.

You have a beautiful marriage between your 2-D and 3-D work. While it informs and communicates with each other they are individual enough to clue the viewer into more of your thought process. Can you tell me about the different symbols and shapes in your 2-D work. It looks like alchemy.
Thank you! The symbols I use are indeed references to alchemy. The fundamental experience to alchemy was and has always been mystery and encryption. Alchemists would use symbols to encrypt their work from others and hide their recipes/ experiments. My use of these symbols serves two purposes. One is an aesthetic purpose. I enjoy the look and feel of geometric pieces and lines these symbols utilize, and have found them to be a nice compliment to my 2-D work. Second, they serve as homage to esoteric alchemy and the pursuit of knowledge and secrets. Alchemists used to encrypt their work through hieroglyphs and mysterious medieval paintings. I am taking this performance and applying to a more modern atmosphere.

What is next for this series of work? Are you interested in bumping up the scale, collaborating, or are you focusing on making and stabilizing your craft?
I would love to do larger crystal pieces, and in fact I have drawn a lot of inspiration from Roger Hiorns- a British contemporary artist who’s famous for crystallizing an entire London flat. It wasn’t until after I began my alchemy series that I had discovered his work. My plan for this series is to explore new methods of crystallization and the synthesis of perfect “minerals”. I would like to have as many types of crystals and forms in my portfolio, and possibly even contribute something to the scientific and chemistry community.

I am always down for collaborating. I’ve been reaching out to some really popular and influential artists that I admire in hopes of collaborating and making something breath-taking and beautiful.

Now that you’re nearly done with your BFA, do you think you’ll stay in the Ozarks?
I actually plan on moving back to Tulsa, Oklahoma where I grew up. I have a lot of support from the Tulsa community, and would love to make Tulsa the home of my artwork and contribute to that community. This is perfect, as I’m right at home and not too far from the caves! Of course I will continue to travel and search for my perfect cave, hopefully taking this adventure to other parts of the world!

Leaving undergraduate can be scary, it seems like you have a good start on founding a community of artists. What are you looking forward to and do you have anything exciting lined up?
I’m looking forward to the amount of time I can dedicate to my craft, exploring, and creating. Hopefully I will be able to personally meet some of the artists I have looked up to while being an undergraduate as well. I’m working on getting some shows lined up when I graduate so I can share my alchemy work with as many people as possible.