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Candice Tavares finds purpose, value, strength in wood art


This Black History Month is passing the page to local Black business owners to talk a little bit about their story in their words

Wood is such a natural medium. It's something that is ever-present. It has a purpose and a value in and of itself and is life-giving. But it's also often cut down and used by other people for many other purposes. Sometimes it can be used for strength and power, or it can be used for whatever someone wants.  

In some ways, I think that mirrors how Black people have been used in this country. 

My path to creating wood art doesn't start out the way you'd expect. I started out specializing in digital illustrations in 2020 because I was frustrated by the amount of Black trauma I was seeing in the media. That was such a hard time. There was the pandemic, but there was also all this unrest. We saw the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and it just felt like it was too much.  

I personally needed to see some positive images of Blackness in this country, because I felt like there was so much negativity that was hard for me to cope with. So, I started drawing images that reflected kind of like the good side of being Black in America, the love that we have for ourselves and our communities and our culture. The love between a parent and child, the natural beauty of Black and brown people. My art was born out of a feeling that I was seeing too much negativity. From there, it really evolved. I had an idea: I wonder what it would look like if I cut one of my illustrations into wood.


It was really just an experiment to me, but when I cut the first image into wood and saw the way that an African American figure translated on wood, it just felt right and really resonated with me. When you look at the natural grain of wood, it's always so unique. It is always different. It's not perfect, but I think there's beauty in that imperfection. I loved using such a beautiful and imperfect medium to reflect on the natural beauty of Black and brown people.  

I started out working with birch because that's what I had access to. I would cut it and stain it with different colors to reflect how light hits brown skin. But then I was encouraged by an artist friend to explore using other wood species. I think the most recent piece that I made includes African mahogany, black and white ebony, patagonian rosewood, some American black walnut. There's also hoa, which is indigenous to Hawaii, macadamia nut and tropical almond.  

Now, when I'm selecting the wood that I want to use, it's about capturing the shadow and the dimension of a face or body with the natural hue of the wood. It gives more depth and dimension to the piece by including wood that has more texture in their grain.


Every image starts with an illustration I drew on my iPad. Then, for the base of the piece, I use a laser cutter, and I cut my art into the wood. I always start with birch, and then I'll add and subtract layers of the piece to give it more dimension. When I was only using birch, it was great because the laser cuts that wood species well. Tropical species of wood are more difficult, though. ebony laughs at a laser. So, as I've started expanding my practice, I've had to change my practice. I actually have to cut most of the larger pieces by hand with a scroll saw. 

Art is a therapeutic thing for me. I always say that art is my prescription for peace of mind. It's what I do to help me decompress from the other work I do. I don't ever want it to feel like it's something that I'm forcing myself to do. If I don't feel like I'm into a piece, I tell myself to stop. I never want my art to feel forced, because I think if it feels forced and I'm not in it, then the final product isn't going to give what I want it to give to the people that view it.


I want Black people to walk away feeling affirmed when they see my art. And I want them to then be encouraged to recognize their own beauty and worth and feel bolstered by and uplifted by that. 

For people who are not African American and aren't seeing a reflection of themselves in the work, I want them to walk away recognizing the beauty in the pieces and in the people reflected in them. I think if you see my work, oftentimes the only time I use paint is for the eyes. The pieces look at you or look away from you. And the idea is that the connection you have with somebody's eyes fosters something emotional. It feels like they're staring at you or around you. It makes you wonder what is behind those eyes and hopefully start to consider things from that different perspective.


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