Tanya Hartman

School of the Arts (SotA) - School of the Arts - Visual Art
Primary office:
Chalmers Hall, Office 300 / Studio 513
University of Kansas
1467 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045-3102


Tanya Hartman came of age in New York City, where she attended The Brearley School. Large portions of her childhood were also spent in Cuernavaca, Mexico and in London, England.

She was educated at The Rhode Island School Of Design, where she obtained a BFA in Painting in 1987. Between 1992-1994 she was a graduate student in Painting at Yale University. After her graduation from Yale (MFA/Painting, 1994) she was a Fulbright Scholar in Stockholm, Sweden. She now teaches painting and drawing at the University of Kansas where she is a Professor in the Department of Visual Art.

She is represented by Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Her exhibitions have been favorably reviewed in The Pitch, in the Kansas City Star, and in Review magazine. She has also exhibited at The Center for Book Arts and at A.I.R Gallery, both in New York City.

Her selected awards include participating in a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant in 2015 (Humanities in the Public Square Program, "Engaging Communities for the Common Good: Stories About Migration), Ucross Foundation (2014), Jentel Residency at the Archie Bray Foundation (summer 2012), an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Rocket Grant (2012), two Puffin Foundation Grants (2011 and 2001), semi finalist for Creative Capital (2011), a Lighton International Artist’s Exchange Grant (2010), A Keeler Family Intra-University Fellowship (2009), three Hall Center Creative Work Fellowships (2012 most recently), two Virginia Center For Creative Arts Fellowships (2010 and 2001), a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship (2010), and a Fulbright Research Fellowship to pursue post-graduate studies in painting and printmaking at the Konsthogskollan, in Stockholm, Sweden (1994-1995).

Her critical writing on art has appeared in The Kansas City Star, Temporary Art Review and in Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.

She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her husband Eric and two high-spirited canines.


To make a work of art is to speak in a visual language composed of form imbued with metaphor. This is difficult to achieve, and the classroom environment must be supportive of self-expression, a place where it is safe to articulate ideas and to be fallible and uncertain. Technical skill and material wisdom must be taught in tandem. For each new technique presented, there also needs to be a discussion of the potential for that technique to carry content and meaning. For instance, in Painting I, methods for applying oil paint thickly (impasto) and in thin veils (glazing) are investigated. After these fundamental counterparts are mastered, the poetry inherent in opacity versus translucence is explored. The juxtaposition of thick paint to thin paint and the associations evoked by texture allow the class to contemplate the following questions: can cultural norms; human emotions or historical events feel choking, airless, clotted or impenetrable, like massive marks of paint? Can memories, dreams, and the fluidity of mood fluctuations feel fleeting and ethereal, like shrouds of paint? By systematically linking technical proficiency to material sensitivity, each student begins to assemble a unique language of visual expression. At its most fundamental, the beginning art studio is like a language lab, in which the fusion of oil paint with poetic content is the language explored.

As students progress, diverse techniques can be incorporated into the curriculum. Though the focus of beginning classes is on proficiency in composition and on Western techniques for applying oil paint to wood and canvas, more advanced sections begin to integrate non-western painting techniques, such as Aboriginal painting, Gujarati miniature painting and ornamentation such as Huichol beading and Ethiopian gold leafing. My intention is to provide as many tools for the creation of original and insightful works as is possible. The contrast between the flat narrative spaces typical of some non-Western traditions with the spatial illusions typical of some traditional Western images offers the students an opportunity to learn about spatial poetics in the support of content.

It is difficult for students to arrive from the noisy interchanges of the outer world and to immediately sink into the quiet and focus that oil painting requires. Thus, each class session begins with simple conversation, as one student poses a question to the group. Sometimes these questions are silly, and sometimes serious and pertinent to current events. Each person is encouraged to weigh in on the issue, a practice that builds community, and communicates that each voice in the group is of equal value. This exercise is also practice for critiques, the method of evaluation for art instruction. At critiques, each student's work is publicly discussed and assessed, both on its formal elements (such as color mixing, composition, paint application, gestural expressiveness, spatial illusion and proficiency of drawing) and on the effectiveness of these tools in supporting the work's content. When a class is accustomed to communicating and familiar with each other, critiques become lively and supportive and the various personalities can be critical of each other without being hurtful. In fact, the performance of critiques becomes a celebration of the hard work; intelligence, pitfalls and risk taking that are the hallmarks of creativity.

Though both conversations and critiques are tools that I employ in the classroom, the most essential interchange of my teaching is simply speaking at length, consistently and individually to each member of the class about their work in progress. Every student is given equal consideration, and offered technical advice, introductions to the work of other pertinent artists, articles to read, content to consider and innovations to investigate. Each student is thus accountable in a daily way to move their work forward, to respond to ideas and to articulate the thoughts and emotions that they are trying to express in their work. Oil painting can literally be slippery and the practice is elusive. Overworked colors smudge into muddy pools; awkwardly drawn compositions undermine intention, ideas need to be evoked rather than illustrated. By speaking to each student individually, I can reverse difficulties, turning them into opportunities to learn about the properties inherent in oil paint, and thereby boosting morale.

By working on an individual level with students within a group setting, a bridge is created that links classroom practice with advising. My advisees are often my students, and by spending time with them, talking about what interests them and exploring and celebrating the offerings in the course catalogue, we create a rapport that supports them throughout their experience in college. The fundamental purpose of advising is to create intellectual self-sufficiency, so that when a nascent interest is perceived, the student knows how to foster it. Advising is a time to express to students that learning is inherently valuable, and does not need to result in a practical outcome. In this way, I hope to foster lifelong intellectual engagement.

The emphasis on learning as an end in itself, on creativity as a crucial tool of human communication, and on art as an act of healing within a frayed civilization is accentuated in work with graduate students. Through bi-monthly hour-long meetings, I emphasize that the discomfort of uncertainty is the price paid for creative innovation. Being literate, aware, cognizant of the history of art and its contemporary expression across visual media is required. It is a paradox of graduate level instruction that one must hold graduate students to a high standard and also push them to experiment and thus to fail. The balance between nurture and rigor is delicate and unique to each artist in the graduate program.

I cherish my role as an educator and find it to be as soulful an experience as that of being in my studio. For, ultimately, teaching is a way to explore how best to be in community; how to be ambitious while sharing resources, how to think deeply without being pretentious, how to create self-sufficiency in another person while still being reliably present to them throughout their careers.

Teaching Interests

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Advanced Drawing
  • Life Drawing
  • Visual Memoir
  • Themes In Art and Literature
  • Materials and Techniques Across Cultures


When I was a child, I stood up to bullies, a fact of which I am proud; a character trait that I hope always to possess. Painting and writing bolstered me, and have consistently been my way to express abhorrence for injustice and. sorrow about human brutality. Rooted in a family history of persecution, my creative motivations are passionate. My paternal grandparents were forced from Germany during World War II. Sweden welcomed them as refugees. but as the war progressed, German forces occupied both Norway and Finland. My Grandfather felt threatened, and took his family to Mexico, the land in which my father and I were both partially raised. I felt my Grandparents' pain and disorientation, and my reaction was to draw obsessively, filling cheap, paper tablets with childish compositions that depicted the complexities of my inner world. Like innumerable others, my upbringing was suffused with an awareness of history and loss.

As I matured, I became enamored of representational realism, and drew each day from observation, training my hand and my eyes to see. At The Rhode Island School of Design, and later at The Yale University School of Art, I turned from representation to symbolism and text-based imagery, in an attempt to tell the intricate and mysterious narrative of my Grandparents' persecution. Their story, and the story of Jewish Diaspora and disaster in the 20th Century, occupied me and was the focus of my creative life. It was not until war erupted in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) that I realized that genocide is an ongoing tragedy that afflicts countless nations.

Thus, the art that I create addresses the plight of refugees and of survivors of torture and war trauma living in the Midwest. I have interviewed human beings from war-torn regions across the world and used their testimonies as the basis for embroidered, text-based works of visual art in which each word of each testament is cut out individually and adhered to an embellished substrate. I create narratives in which each utterance is respected as a sacred artifact of suffering and survival. Sometimes, I record myself reading the survival stories that I have compiled and include an audible component to a work of art. Other times, I paint portraits of survivors and embed the images into fields of glimmering glass beads to evoke the iconography of holiness. It is important to move across genres and to be inclusive of all peoples, all styles of making art, and all versions of storytelling.

Part of my graduate education included the formal study of critical writing on art, much of which I found to be pretentious and impenetrable, its meaning obfuscated by uncommon words and coded language. Simple, eloquent prose creates understanding between people and I have always believed that communicating clearly is an act of goodwill. The language of critical discourse on visual art offended me because it was exclusive, whereas art at its best is inclusive and an expression of collective feeling. Rarely could I find the kind of writing on art that I longed to read, filled with human detail, biography, psychological insight and articulate analysis of visual content.

In 2008, I was invited to write an article for the international journal Ceramics Art and Perception that addressed the work of a former student. In my article, I tried to open the artist's work to understanding by telling the story of the artist's life through his work. I have been writing about art ever since, and consider my writing to be as important and fulfilling a part of my career as is my studio practice.

When I write, I use the analysis of visual art as a conduit through which to speak about issues pertinent to our times. Because the art world is celebrity driven, it is fulfilling to focus on overlooked artists from diverse backgrounds as the subjects for my articles. As a critic for the Kansas City Star, I chose solely to write favorable reviews, focusing my attention on objects and images worthy of consideration rather than criticizing weaker exhibitions. I try to destabilize an established hierarchy that allows art critics to sit in reserved judgment, in favor of a more egalitarian and engaged model in which I work directly with the artists I am reviewing, interviewing them thoroughly and allowing my words to augment the ideas they are expressing through their work.

Throughout my career, my biggest accomplishment is the fact that I write and paint everyday. On days when I teach, I arise before dawn and go to my studio. This work ethic allows me to weather with equanimity the many rejections and the few acceptances that are common to my field. However, I delight in each new success, and feel satisfaction in the fact that I had a solo show at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in 2015 that functioned like a mid-career retrospective. I am also pleased that I have become a sought-after arts writer, and plan to use this cachet to focus on visual art being made in disregarded regions such as the Midwest.

My ambitions for the near future are to apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship yearly until successful, to apply for a Fulbright Fellowship to Sierra Leone to work with an agency that reconciles war victims with the soldiers who harmed them, to arrange for exhibitions of my work at Jewish museums across America and at The Carter Center for Peace in Athens, Georgia, to start a blog called Midwest Makers, that profiles artists living and making art in the Heartland, to continue to write about art, and to publish both a book of essays and a book of poetry within the next five years, both of which are in progress.

Recently, I read an essay that stated that when a person is being bullied, an effective way to stop the assault is simply to go to them and to stand with them. The ongoing impulse to stand with others in shared humanity is the inspiration for my creativity, a way in which I can express intense sorrow and immense awe at the flawed and luminous paradox of human behavior.

Research Interests

  • Oil Paint
  • Embellishment
  • Beading
  • Diaspora
  • Stitching
  • South Sudan
  • Handmade
  • Refugee
  • Genocide
  • Survivor
  • Visual memoir

Selected Publications

Hartman, T. (2016). Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine, The Tension Between: The Art of Charles Timm-Ballard [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In The Tension Between: The Art of Charles Timm-Ballard.
Hartman, T. (2016). Ceramics Art and Perception: Meredith Host, Translated Pattern [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Meredith Host: Translated Pattern.
Hartman, T. (2016). Desire Catalogue, Belger Art Center [Other]. In There Is Only One Big Thing.
Hartman, T. (2014). New Ceramics: We Are The Same; Elaine Henry at The Brinton Museum of Art [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)].
Hartman, T. (2013). Ceramics Art and Perception: Linda Lighton: Taking Aim [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2013). Ceramics Art and Perception: Judy Onofrio: Earthbound [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2013). Ceramics Art and Perception: The Songbird and the Architecture: The Art of Carey Esser [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2012). Ceramic Excellence: A Collection of Eight Essays Published by The Archie Bray Foundation [Other].
Hartman, T. (2012). Ceramics Art and Perception: Steve Gorman: Below The Surface [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)].
Hartman, T. (2011). Ceramics Art and Perception: Linda Lighton’s Luminous [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2011). Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine: Marc Leuthold’s Offering (Cover article; reprinted from exhibition catalogue from The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art) [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In E. Olafson Henry (Ed.), Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2010). Marc Leuthold: Sculpture: 1999-2010 (catalogue from the exhibition at The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art) (T. Piche, Ed.) [Other].
Hartman, T. (2009). Ceramics Art and Perception: Judy Onofrio: A Twist of Fate [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.
Hartman, T. (2008). Ceramics Art and Perception: Offered Up: The Art Of Todd Cero-Atl [Periodicals (newsletter, magazine, etc.)]. In Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
KU Today