Terrence Payne: 100 Creatives


Number 92: Terrence Payne

City: Minneapolis

Years spent living in MN: 15

There is something unmistakably sincere about the oil pastel paintings of Terrence Payne. The subjects in his portraits often have an awkwardness to them, and though their smiles may be shy, their eyes wide, and their dance moves slightly out of step, there is a human truth captured in their vulnerability that is compelling.

In addition to his striking, colorful pieces, Payne also helps expose Minnesota to emerging and established artists as founder of the artist cooperative, Rosalux Gallery. 

[jump] Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:


  1. I am always inspired by the stories people tell me about their lives and the history of where they came from to be who they are.

  2. I have been really into working with colorful patterns in my work and how I can use that to communicate with people in very subtle ways.

  3. Random glimpses into everyday things and situations always tend to spark a narrative in my head that turns into the basis for my work.

Name were some things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

My budding creative type was out of control -- everything I saw for the most part happening around me was so new and refreshing that I couldn't help but draw inspiration from those artists. I saw an installation at the national gallery in Washington DC by Juan Munoz that totally blew me away in the early '90s. As I think about it now, it had a lot to do with how I think about and use figures in my work today. I was also reading a lot of David Hockney books that changed the way I looked at art and thought about its function.The independent music scene at that time was inspirational as well; how bands were defining the terms of their creations and taking control of their own careers without having to rely on anyone else.

What was your last big project?

I just had a show open at the MIA with Jennifer Davis, Erika Olson Gross, and Joe Siness titled "Flourish," which will be up in the MAEP galleries until the beginning of January. This is definitely the most cohesive body of work that I have ever presented before and I am quite proud of the result. I am also currently showing some smaller drawings in a group show for Pilot Arts Group at the Gray Duck gallery in Austin, TX until the middle of next month. You can get a taste of my new work here.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?  

My next solo show will be at Rosalux Gallery this coming April, which will be my first at our new space in northeast Minneapolis. I've been playing around with the idea of mixing drawings and screen prints for a while now and I think that is what I'll be getting ready for this show over the next couple of months. I am also working on new things for a couple of pop up group shows this winter.

Creative/career high point (so far)?:

It's hard to say what the high point of my career has been so far, I'd hate to think I've fulfilled my potential as an artist because it's the next step forward or the new idea around the corner that keeps me pushing to make new work. I would say that some of my proudest moments have been as gallery director at Rosalux. It has been really satisfying to help emerging artists out at the start of their careers and then see how far they can take what they have learned at the gallery forward on their own.  

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist (this can be logistical, financial, creative, etc.)?


The biggest challenge has been finding a balance between the business and creative sides of being an artist. Often I will try to create things on a large scale or on an over ambitious timeline and find myself burdened by the impracticality of the original idea by the end. It has taken a lot of time and discipline to be able to take a step back every so often in order to refine my intentions and make them align with the realities of my physical and financial capabilities. By forcing myself to find more effective solutions to the challenges I create for myself I have been able to create work which is more satisfying to my audience and me.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career?

It has changes a lot since I moved here 15 years ago. At the time it seemed that most of what was going on was in the warehouse district of downtown centered on the Wyman Building, with an emphasis on commercial galleries. Over time, the commercial gallery scene has become less important with more of the focus shifting to artist run spaces and non-profit galleries getting most of the attention, which seems to be a definite move in a positive direction from the point of view of most artists I know. I think that the shift has freed up a lot of artists to be less self conscious of their work in regards to its commercial appeal and to let them concentrate on doing what is most satisfying to them, which seems to have strengthened the arts community as a whole.

For whatever reason, you are forced to become one of the characters from your paintings. Which do you choose, and why?


I think I would want to be one of the cowboys from a piece called "I Suppose You Would Be Alright With This If We Were Drunk Instead."  It's all about goofing off and working at playing without being self conscious about it, having the freedom to follow your whims and enjoy yourself in spite of your circumstances. Basically, to act like a child and get away with it for a while.

What was your favorite color as a child?

I don't think that I could say I had a favorite color growing up. I went to Catholic school and our uniforms were light blue on navy, so definitely not that. Yellow was gross in the '70s, and green was avocado then. Purple has alway been lame. So I will have to say that it was probably red, maybe orange.

Looking for more? You can check out Terrence Payne's work at the blog for the MIA's "Flourish" exhibit, at the Rosalux Gallery website, and at his official website. Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis

99. Sean Smuda

98. Chuck U



96. Amy Rice

95. Kara Hendershot