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find: Visual Arts Canada

Thaya Whitten  

painter, pianist, Canada.

"I rejoice to hear that thou takest pains with thine art,
for in this wonderful new age, art is worship."       `Abdu'l-Bahá

Excerpts from an interview and article by Sandra Phinney, Canada.

Thaya Whitten graduated from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, U.S.A. with an Arts Degree in 1949 and has spent the past fifty years painting and continuing her studies. Thaya has so many works to her credit that it would fill several pages. She has participated in numerous exhibitions; conducted a number of workshops and seminars; been on several national tours; taught many art and painting classes; published art book reviews and has paintings commissioned by both public and private sectors. She has paintings in several private collections throughout Canada and the United States.
Thaya's art and music are interconnected in a unique way. "I have often said that my piano is my landscape painting and my painting is my music."
Because of a long-standing back problem, she can't dance, so she "dances" through the movement of her fingers and creates patterns and rhythms to put music to words and images. In 1965, while on a lecture-painting tour to Canadian universities, she encountered a pianist playing a composition based on the language of visual arts. Thaya proceeded to paint a water colour based on this pianist's composition. It was full of circles, zigzags and graphs. When the pianist finished playing, she exclaimed, "That's just the way it looks!" Thaya explains: "Keep in mind that music is based on harmony, measure and rhythm, and that abstract painting is very much related to those same things. The roots of both are very connected and piano improvisations are integral to my painting process."

Ascending Leaves and Lovers, oil on canvas, 20 x 32 inches.

Thaya often records her music and uses it in an interactive fashion, using her recordings to inspire her painting. Because she experiences some interruptions when she paints, the music provides a rhythmic continuity. Also, as oil painting is a slower medium than acrylics or watercolours, her music provides a way to retain the original feeling the painting began with. She adds, "the music provides clues for colour and rhythms in placement of forms desired to attain a rather hidden relatedness..."

...Since she is primarily kinesthetic, her fingers seem to "carry" the messages back and forth between the piano and the painting. With background and training in both classical and jazz, she has conscientiously explored the interaction between music and art since 1982, when she did a major piece of work on Noel Knockwood, spiritual medicine man to the Mi'kmaq people.

Hence, it is more a process of dialogue with the work and inner conversation with God that yields the character of the work. She recounts a wonderful saying that a fellow artist gave to her years ago.
"When I was young, my body carried my spirit around. Now that I'm old, my spirit carries my body around,." Thaya exclaims, "That's the secret of faith! And what I've learned is that I know that I'm basically making my own spiritual body. Everything that I paint will come back to me."

Ink and pastel, 2001.

Sunstones, oil on canvas, 22 x 48 inches.

Little Gems, ink on card, 5 x 2 inches.

She goes on to add: "Bahá 'u'lláh doesn't like imitation or repetition, so I just can't imitate. God never created anything twice the same, so the artist that does that is at some other goal than I am. Free expression - feelings, desire for colour, emotions - has to be balanced with the rational faculties, and it's not very simple."

Thaya works in bright, pure colours, with brush and oil on canvas from very small miniature line drawings to paintings of up to 49x 103 inches [a recent 5 piece combination].

Excerpts from Arts Dialogue, October 2000, page 9

Thaya Whitten died in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on 12 November, 2001.

Coloured Pencil drawing by Thaya Whitten, 2001.

Coloured Pencil drawing by Thaya Whitten, 2001.

Coloured Pencil drawing by Thaya Whitten, 2001.

Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands