The Riverside Arts Center board meets once a month in the upstairs classroom. This room is a typical art room with easels and supplies. The volunteers at the RAC pitched in and painted it yellow a few years ago and Tariq Tamir, one of the instructors at the RAC, started adding touches to the decor. I have since looked forward to going to the meetings to see what he has done since our last one. He started by painting the molding blue then added sculptures from the ceiling and so on.

Tariq has been teaching at the Riverside Arts Center for eight years. He has a cult-like following among the children of Riverside. He loves teaching kids because they are so honest when making art. His art informs theirs and his phantasmagorical creations are clearly influenced by his work with kids.

I stopped by to get a sneak peak of Tariq’s show, All This Time, the name a reference to what he’s been doing all the time he’s been teaching at the RAC. He is still installing, and I’m sure still creating pieces for Saturday’s opening. Tariq has created a marvelous, mystical, fantastical extravaganza in Riverside; no floor, ceiling, wall or tree has not gotten the Tariq Treaqment!

Tariq works in both painting and sculpture. The beauty of his work is that it appeals to both children and adults. He has created a staggering amount of art all from found, donated and recyclable items. The only material he spent money on is cans of spray paint, which he uses liberally in both his paintings and sculpture.

Many artists work in trash, found objects and recyclables. Check out this article by Jill Harness in mental_floss, 11 Artists Doing Amazing Things With Recycled Materials. They often take this stuff and make it into something you can recognize, a person or an object. It’s like the artists need to show that trash can become something identifiable. Tariq doesn’t seem to worry about that. He takes indistinguishable stuff and works to creating a fantasy form with lovely colors. His work exercises the imagination. The cool thing is that a part of you tries to see something in these pieces so you can make sense of them. The gift, if you can give it to yourself, is just to enjoy them for their beauty.

I asked Tariq what inspires him and how he works. “Well, I see something, like a propane tank, and the shape speaks to me and I say this would look good on it and that would look good like this and I work on it.” I asked him if any artists inspired him and he said Jim Henson and Tim Burton. When I pressed him about any fine artists he said that not only is he not inspired by other fine artists he makes a point of not looking at them. He watches a lot of TV and enjoys fantasy and sci-fi. Tariq is a gifted colorist. Even though you may not be able to name what you are looking at you will enjoy his work. The show, which is exploding with pieces, is harmonious because of his use of color and form.

Some people have an aesthetic you like and you’re always curious as to what they will come up with when they work on different things in addition to their art, such as a room, the decorations for a fundraiser or a float in a parade. Tariq has worked his magic in all of these realms. He did a fabulous job decorating for the Promarama fundraiser last year and I hear he is in charge of decorations for the Disco Inferno to be held in October. While the RAC events are amazing and fun, it is worth it to go for the decor alone. It is like going to a party in a piece of art. His show, All This Time, which opens on Saturday June 21st and runs through July 19th, is a real treat! Check out this interview with Anne Harris!

Tariq is the oldest of five kids. He has three brothers and a sister. He started making art at age eight when his mom gave him a pack of pipe cleaners. He loved twisting and turning them in to other things. His first sculptures were of cats. Tariq is still twisting wiry things. Just sit at a RAC meeting where he works the entire time. There is a Madonna painting that is hung where the artist’s name and show are usually displayed. This is a self-portrait of Tariq with his mom, obviously a very important influence in his life. I forgot to ask Tariq if she read him Dr. Seuss because there is clearly a Seussian influence to his work!

Everything is for sale at the show except for my favorites, his action figures. These are the pieces that he is known for and is always working on when he is sitting in a meeting. He makes them by twisting wire and other stuff together to make realistic looking characters. I get the feeling he has some plans for these guys and gals, something bigger than hanging out in a gallery! If I were Tariq, I’d use them in short movies or perhaps approach a toy company to make some sort of kit, where kids can make their own action figures. Kits are a booming business in the toy industry these days, as explained in this recent article by Anne Marie Chaker in the Wall Street Journal, Moms Pay Up For No-Mess Crafts.

I could not imagine that Tariq is not afflicted with ideaphoria, an experience where one feels the constant onslaught of new ideas, creating a euphoric state of idea creation (wiktionary definition). He did confirm that he is always making art. I asked him what he does to calm his circus brain. He responded, “Nothing. I’m not ready for it to stop!” When I asked if he’ll be finished creating and installing his work for the Saturday opening, he looked a little worried, “I hope so.”

Kathleen Thometz is an artist and writer. She lives with her husband, kids and doodle dogs. You can experience more about her at

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...

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