T. Monnette Lartey (Ms. T) is an organic artist with a flair for interpreting nature’s art.The materials often used in her art designs are found objects originated by the Creator. Acorns, straw, fruit, vegetables, wood, sawdust, flowers – fresh or dried, and bones are only a few of the items often artistically arranged in her works.
A native of St. Louis Missouri, a “Statesman” from Webster Groves High School, Ms. T attended the Kansas City Art Institute and holds a Bachelor degree in Fine Art from Avila University and an Associate degree in Commercial Art from Pen Valley Community College, both in Kansas City, Missouri.
She has displayed her work in a variety of fairs, festivals and private showings. She is currently at work as the illustrator of a motivational children’s book.
T. Monnette Lartey is the mother of three sons: Tarik, Siddik and Rashad Lartey. She is also the proud grandmother of two grandsons, Lucas C. Andering and Taheem-Wasra Lartey.
TAN: How old are you?
T: Well, I consider myself to be old enough to qualify for pretty much about anything
TAN: Where do you live, kwh,ere are you from?
T: I live in K.C Missouri, and I’m from St. Louis
TAN: What is your day Job. Do you create art full time?
T: I create art full time
TAN: How long have you been creating art?
T: This endeavor here for probably about, i’ll say the last ten years, i’ve started creating these pieces.
TAN: and how long altogether, in general?
T: Altogether all my life, all my life, yeah.
TAN: When did you first realize that you had a passion for art?
T: I’ve been a creative person all my life, I mean, I guess I got creative juices from my mother and father. I have several brothers and sisters so you know there creative people, in one way or the other…
TAN: So pretty much, you were born with it?
T: I was born with it, and the passion helped it grow
TAN: how long have you been creating art professionally. When did you sell your first piece?
T: I sold my first piece, probably about 5 years ago.
TAN: What was it?
T: It was The Rasta Man
TAN: One of the ones that we will show our readers?
T: yes, the rasta man and the rasta girl, those are my first two pieces
TAN: and none of my pieces are small.
T: the medium I work in you have to have large pieces, because you have a lot of little things and to make something large it just has to be a lot of material.
TAN: So you’re work is always pretty big. nothing small?
T: for the most part. I don’t do too many small things. everything is bigger than a poster size bigger than 18×24
TAN: Any formal training, schooling Degrees?
T: Yeah, I’ve been to the Art institute in K.C. I have an associates and a bachelors in fine arts. I went to Avala in K.C. Those are the places I’ve been.
TAN: what inspires you?
TAN: When you say blackness, do you mean in a colorful way or a cultural way?
T: Cultural wise yes. I think about peacefulness, and that I know art is in the eye of the beholder, and a passion for that particular topic. as artist, once you figure out what your image is going to be, its almost like your whole being. You think about it 24/7. You sleep, you eat, everything you do is about that one piece. So it’s pretty time consuming, i mean if you’re really into that piece and you put your heart and soul into that piece and if its a large piece, like this first piece were going to talk about, it takes you awhile to keep visualizing that piece, and you know what works. You know what feels right. You know if you have the right thing there are you don’t, which gives you the flow for the piece.
TAN: So lets go ahead and take a look at this first picture?
T: This first piece is called reflections. There is a mirror behind the piece. its a HIV aids piece and the theme of it was that looking at all this. It is really time consuming, you know its a lot of things a lot of textures,I love textures, a lot of different shapes and it takes you away so the main part of it was is you don’t know any of these women and you don’t know if they have hiv or aids or not, and the other part is that its an interactive piece because once you stand in front of that piece. you become the eighth person. you’re in the piece now because its a mirror. and thats the thing, It Could be you with HIV or aids. You don’t know if any of these women have it and you’re involved in it too. although you don’t know it. You just standing in front of it and looking at it. You should recognize yourself. but know you’re apart of it too. I mean Everyone is a part of that, one way or the other, everyones apart of it, if you want to admit it or not so that was the point of that piece
TAN: So when we look at this piece “reflections” what are we looking at. I know we are looking at women but what are these women made of. What materials make this mosaic?
T: I’m an organic artist. I figure everyone can relate to that. Different mediums, different textures, I love textures. Its a mix of cloth, african cloth, and various organic items. Pine needles at different stages of life, a chicken bone, what else, all of their eyes are made out of chicken feathers, pine needles and daisies.
TAN: Do i see some acorns in there?
T: Yes. There are acorns, rice, oranges, a hydrangea plant
T: Hydrangea yes, they come in different colors. Pumpkin, rhododendron leaves, pistachio nuts, and the background on this particular is a field in the spring because that is not what’s in the background. Remember, it’s a mirror so whatever it is in front of, it reflects. And the green grass, I love the green grass in front of it. Fresh green grass in the spring. This piece is 61 by 31 inches
TAN: Tell us about this next piece. What’s the name of it?
T: Afro girl.
TAN: Explain to us what “Afro Girl” is made of
T: Her body is made of leaves and her hair is the texture of an afro but it is all organic. I don’t know if its an ash tree but its something that comes out of the tree. Everything is organic and the bamboo i harvest myself. The frame is a grapevine and the background is bamboo.
TAN: What were you feeling when you created Afro Girl, what were your thoughts?
T: Thoughts that you don’t have to necessarily see the face of a person to see, for one, their sex and who they are. You know this is a woman. And its tastefully done. You don’t see the crack of her but or nothing like that. It stops right were her hips start to flare, but you know its a woman, without a doubt and all you see is her backside.
TAN: How long did it take you to do this piece?
T: About three months. You have to get the materials to be right and cut the right shape. i’d say about 3 months. Three or four months,
TAN: Is the process the same for all three of these pieces?
T: That you have to let your materials dry, yes. There is also a drying process that takes place.
TAN: Take us through the process from start to finish from Gathering the pieces to a finished product.
T: Because its the medium that it is and you have to make sure that you have the right feel, the right pair, the right items together, you know, the right textures. I have to harvest whenever i have the opportunity to harvest, which is if i see something and it s the right color, the right shape or even if its just the right shape, it doesn’t have to necessarily be that particular piece it just has to be either that shape texture or color that i desire that I want to create with
TAN: So, If you see it and you like it, you’re taking it with you?
T: and harvesting it, yes, for a later date.
TAN: When you’re thinking about doing a piece, are you picking through things that you already have or are you going out and looking for pieces that you might need?
T: Some of both because you find you have a different need once you get into that project that you might have to go out and look for so and then again you might have something that would fit in that position or space of that particular shape.
TAN: So, you have an idea, and you’re thinking about creating a piece. Are you mapping some kind of draft?
T: Yes, giving myself a map, somewhat and as i say once you’re in that creative frame of mind, thats all you think about so you find yourself drawing it whenever you sit down, thinking about it whenever you think about it . it just becomes you and it takes everything you do and thats the piece
TAN: We have an Idea. We’ve harvested what materials we think we may need, and we’ve mapped a pretty basic draft of what we want the final image to look like. What next, do we start putting things on the canvas?
T: I make my own little pallet which a pallet means if I want red, I need to know what color things are going to be red, what color leaves have red and burgundy in them. and I make my own canvas so I can make them any size that I want. thats how you start out. Make a pallet. A texture pallet. I need to know what textures go together, so i’ll put those things in a line, by themselves so i can see that this person is going to be this color and this is what’s going to go and compliment this, and contrast and texture. If they don’t have that then I need to go and search and find it until i complete it.
TAN: A layout if you will
T: yes its not as blind as you may think it is. its more methodical. A method to the madness
TAN: You have and idea, you’ve harvested your materials, created a pallet, and stretched the canvas, and know what do we do.
T: We figure out how much a product we need to cover the different areas on the canvas. Even if what you have is a good texture and color and a good match. you have to change everything if you don’t have enough to fill the area. then you have to choose another texture or another medium because most of the time its a one time thing. you either get all you can get of that one thing at that one time or its gone. its blown away or its rained. you never know. you have to get it then.
TAN: What is the name of this next piece?
T: The Rasta Man
TAN: What is he made of?
T: Sawdust, his lips are made of the stems that hold a pinecone to a tree, his eyes are orange slices with daisies as the pupils, rhododendrons for the background of his eyes. his eyebrows and his beard are made up of moss.
TAN: Are any of these things painted.
T: No, original color. I try to work in the original color. there are enough colors in nature. no dies, none of that.
TAN: What the name of the last piece?
T: That is Lady on a Trek and she has a baby on her back in a ti-dyed piece of canvas like a canvas carrier. there all 3d. I have several different textures of hair which are all organic, dreadlocks, braids, different textures. this is also fabric and other organic materials.
TAN: These last two pieces took about 3 months as well?
T: No, this one took more time…
TAN: On Average, How long does it take to complete a piece?
T: They vary, I mean because you have different shapes therefore you may be able to work on more than one because you have different dry time depending on how many pieces it has like with reflections I definitely had to work on several pieces at one time.
TAN: because all of the different women are different pieces?
TAN: How long did it take you to finish the reflections piece?
T: Probably about a year, about a year
TAN: You used the same process, over different time scales, with all four pieces?
T: yes, with lots of patience
TAN: Do you have a blog or website where or readers can view more of your work or contact you, to purchase a piece maybe?
T: No, not yet. My son is working on that. Hopefully by the end of the year I will have something launched
TAN: Do you you only work in organic material
T: I do other types, but i find more peace in this. I can find more textures in nature than I can in any other medium. and I enjoy taking something common, that everyone can understand and know of and identify with and making something totally different out of it. I’m looking forward to getting into abstract pieces to so, i’m looking forward to that in the next couple of years
TAN: How long have you been working with organic materials
T: Probably for the last ten years
TAN: What types of art were you doing before then?
T: I wasn’t. I had to raise a family before all of this started.
TAN: Are any of these pieces for sell?
T: Reflections and Lady on a Trek are for sell
TAN: How would one contact you?
T: Through tannersquash
Lets thank T for taking the time from her busy schedule to talk with us. We highly appreciate your time and work.
If anyone has any questions for T, contact me @ tannersquash.gmail.com. All messages will be relayed and all answers will be posted.
Thanks for reading