Tunson uses what is in and around him for inspiration: comics, news stories, memories, the natural world, and technology. “The work is just continuous with my life,” he said. But also at his core is a deep reverence for learning and exploration. He taught art at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs for 30 years and has been a reader and learner since childhood.
Growing up in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, he and his friends were frequent visitors to the Warren Branch Library. “The librarian was Mrs. Robinson. She was a Black librarian and turned us onto everything,” said Tunson. “When we went into that library, it was like a sanctuary, it was sacred. You didn’t go in there with no-nonsense. She didn’t put up with anything. That’s how I got exposed to Charles White and all the different other Black artists that existed in that time … we were so lucky to be able to check out those books, and she was reluctant to fine us when we were overdue. What a librarian. She was the best.”
There are numerous abstract pieces showcased in Ascent, most notably “Untitled 147” (2018), an astoundingly large painting (10 feet by 42 feet) that is all-encompassing, like the wind on the Western plains — forceful and spirited. In “Redlining” (2020), Tunson presents magnified natural textures — maybe the ocean, the earth — upon which he painted hard-edged rectangles, suggesting the conceptual absurdity of human-made boundaries.
“Racial/Facial Recognition” (2020), a large mixed-media painting, is placed near the entrance of RedLine. In the center of the work is a Black man’s nose and mouth — the same image that appears as the faces of the soldier-protectors in “Keeper of the Secrets.” The image is pixelated like a black-and-white newspaper photograph, and where the eyes should be there are instead two large, brightly colored targets; targets that have clearly been used because there are dozens of bullet holes. The painting’s figure wears the targets like glasses, but there is something forced about it — the glasses are too big, too heavy.
Floyd D. Tunson holds a Master’s Degree in Studio Art. His work is in the collections of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, the Denver Art Museum, the Kaiser Permanente corporation, the Walter O. Evans Collection of African-American Art and Polly and Mark Addison. Tunson’s eclecticism includes photography, printmaking, drawing, painting, mixed media, and sculpture.