Tim Wells travels a lot for work. He resides in Michigan, but has been practicing community art in Troy, Ohio since 2015 and recently spent a year as an artist-in-residence at Mississinawa Valley School in Darke County, Ohio. I visited him at the site where he shot his latest series of works.
“My first day at school, it was just fun to be back in the middle school,” Tim said. “And so I just thought it was hysterical that I could go into the lunch queue and walk across and have this lunch on a polystyrene tray.”
Tim asked a student, “What are we today?”
She replied, “Nachos loaded.”
He enthusiastically replied, “Oh, I like those!”
“And so I just took a picture and sent it to my wife and said, ‘Hey, I’m a student again!’ So I started doing it every day, I started taking a picture of my lunch,” he recalled. “And then it became something I had to do, it was kind of, once I started, I didn’t want to stop.
A student asked Tim, “So what’s the point of talking about lunch?” »
Tim replied, “It’s about time and how artists document time in their artwork, and so it’s me documenting my school year here through my lunches.”
“I think time is more, is presented differently by a photographer than by other visual arts because we work in such fractions of time when we make our images,” Tim said. “I’m more of a street photographer than a studio photographer. I like to explore the world with my cameras and take pictures of what interests me.”
I asked, “So what’s your favorite lunch?”
Tim replied, “Walking tacos are always popular, Sloppy Joes were nice, one thing I was always trying to figure out was that with the pizza they always served corn. I don’t know what pizza has to do with corn, but when you saw the menu had pizza it was like ‘Okay we’re going to eat corn today’.
“In my brain, you know this takes me back to seventh grade,” he said. “You walk through the lunch line, and I specifically remember the buns and snickerdoodles being the best buns and snickerdoodles ever. So to have a chance to go back and relive that, as an adult, as someone in their 50s, you know, has that chance to go back.”
“For the past five years, I’ve been more on the arts, community, and curatorial side than the creative side. I’m an introvert,” Tim said. “So having to go to galleries and sell his work wasn’t really my thing. Going to gallery openings was the most painful experience I’ve ever had in my life. So I kind of dropped out of that scene, and that’s how I started working in the community, so I started looking for residencies because my work is site-specific, I’m more interested in going to new places and seeing new things than sitting in my studio day after day after day.”
“When I travel, the first few days I take photos of the obvious. Then I start looking for the everyday stuff, then I start looking for the weird and quirky stuff. How can I see the city that I live in? with a fresh look as if I was here for the first time,” said Tim.
“I have very broad interests.” proclaimed Tim. “I do photography but I also do painting, I do printmaking, I do screen printing, I started a non-profit association, and we were showing films at the cinema in Troy, we started doing a podcast on it, and there was a newsletter that was Art Around Town Dayton, and the person running it asked if anybody wanted to take it over, and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it!” And I keep expanding things more and more, but I don’t think that dilutes me as an artist, it just helps me understand and appreciate more of what I’m trying to do .”
Tim calmly said, “I’m getting to the point in my age where I realize that all the things I wanted to do when I started out as an artist might not be achievable, so it’s more aware that maybe I’m leaving my mark on the world is going to be different from what I thought twenty years ago.”
Studio Visit is produced by Susan Byrnes and created at Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.