Lanecia Rouse Tinsley is an abstract artist based in Houston, Texas. She creates out of a desire to make the invisible landscapes within us known, using texture, form and color to speak to life in ways she feels words cannot. She says she is drawn to the “negative spaces” in life—times of ambiguity and uncertainty, silence and mystery.
A graduate of Duke University Divinity School, Tinsley was a pastor’s kid who became a pastor herself. (Her father was the first cross-racial appointment in South Carolina in the United Methodist Church.) She always found ways to bring the arts into her ministry, but she knew she wanted to be the one creating art that offered new ways of seeing. She also wanted to have children. But when her infant daughter, AJ, died shortly after her birth, Tinsley faced a turning point. How was she going to survive this grief? How could she imagine a life in which she wasn’t merely surviving, but thriving?
“I’d felt pain. My heart had been broken before, but this was a new kind of breaking.”
Tinsley left ministry to become a full-time visual artist. The journey through grief remains a daily experience for her, but in her art practice she’s found a way to express what she feels so that it doesn’t imprison her, but instead opens a door that others can enter.
“I always thought, there’s life in the boundaries. But now I realize that I want less and less of that. I want to figure out ways of creating more space for myself to be who I am to be in this world, to see the holy in me and the holy without me.”
Tinsley and I sat down at the Glen Workshop, where she teaches mixed media and painting, to talk about the creation and experience of art as ways to lean into prayer; the artists who minister to her pain and remind her to feel joy–including Rothko, Alma Thomas and poet Mary Oliver; and how the interdisciplinary collaboration that happens at the Glen Worksop inspires us.
Tinsley works to make that kind of communal experience more accessible to more artists and people in her own community. She works with projectCURATE in Houston as a Spiritual Director and Consultant for the Arts. She is also co-founder of the ImagiNoir Group, an international alliance and think-tank of black activists, artists, writers, scholars and educators.
“I can’t imagine going through what I went through without knowing love was real.”
- “Gird Yourselves, Yet Be Shattered” by Natalie Vestin, on Tinsley’s Advent paintings
- The Rothko Chapel
- Cy Twombly Gallery
- Ed Clark
- Helen Frankenthaler
- Alma Thomas
- Jeffrey Gibson
- Mary Oliver, “The Sunflowers”
- Follow Lanecia Rouse Tinsley’s process on Instagram.
- Original music composed by Sister Sinjin
- Episode produced by Cassidy Hall