THANK YOU to everybody in my life.

Thank You, to everybody in my life, throughout my whole life, for our every breath, for every chance encounter and for my ability to set a ball in motion and for the way the velocity of an idea in motion brings to itself a clearing and a force.

I am a high achiever; have always been. I am excited by and committed to a vision and nothing feels too difficult. New York streets are filled with resources and brilliant people.

I am not hot at applying for grants; but I am cool with reaching out in my community, the people I know and who know me, the people I meet on the street or wander into my studio… BAM and I have caught them, in a sparkling web of excitement and with a well thought out path to accomplishment.

In my last performance DUST TO DUST I had a crew of 15. The construction guy Derek Guadalupe I met one month before, rolling down 9th street as I was pondering how I was going to build this particular performance apparatus.

A week later I received an email from film student Kristiina Salaka, she wanted to make a short film on me. I suggested she document the making of DUST to DUST. Now, soon it will be on utube.

As the performance day neared the more people I instructed. I was micro managing from selecting dirt, mixing pigment, data entry, poster and costume design, colaboring with the composer to clearing the space for construction. By the day of I was wound tight. My instructions became shrill commands. Stress was damp in the atmosphere. I yelled at the team to not ask questions; just do what I say. An hour out from the performance and so much to yet be done, nicety and explanation was a luxury I could not afford.

The intrepid crew, new and old friends had trusted me thus far, had volunteered their time and energy without excuse or negativity. Now I demanded silent, committed action.
Kristiina smiled at me lovingly as I scream out orders. And in her sweet acknowledgement I remember her words to me “you are a great director, you know what you want and how to do it.” My crew, my friends show faith in me and have my back beyond money, recognition and even manners.

I am alone this Thanksgiving Day and night- an orphan in New York on this family holiday. But I feel no need to fill up my time with social stuff or my belly with food. I am truly satisfied and wholly grateful as I look back on my life; I have achieved all my visions with crews of human angels and now again with a slew of human angels and so it will be in the future as I concoct my next exhibition and see my 2012 performance though the fog.

Life rolls, from dust to dust, from one vision accomplished to the next. And for that I am supremely & radiantly thankful.


Derek Guadalupe – construction
Tim Cramer — composer
Bobbi Bennett — chief assistant
Sandra Casti & Art Guerra of Guerra Pigment co.

Kevin O,Hanlon – vidiographer
Rainer Hosch — photographer
Simeon Rose — live video feed
Karen Oughtred – stage manager

Louis Williams — general assistance & doorman
Daniela Mamon — adjustments to costume
Roger Norris – poster printing
Ed Marshall – Installation photography

Kristiina Salaka, Ama Teva, Andrew Stroker,
Eddy Menuau, & Hank for general assistance.

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I am not afraid to get dirty, I am not afraid of the cold – I have a high discomfort tolerance, I am not shy about the limited and different way my body moves, I am curious to see just how I do move & I want to explore that. I want to explore what it is to be human and anticipate how we might next evolve.

Really I am not performing, I am experiencing. I do not rehearse, I do not learn lines – this is an authentic event, I embody contemplation. I am not an entertainer, I am not an exhibitionist the performance becomes a group contemplation.

My performances have had me hanging upside down, spinning in a circle & spilt out of a barrel of 60 gallons of crude oil, but this one, DUST TO DUST was epic, pushing me to a new level of understanding. I am recovering still. Cuts & grazes on my hands, arms and shoulders. Wounds in places never before open, like the tips of my thumbs, the tops of my shoulders.

In the months before the performance I was reading about the power of dirt, of topsoil and then including it in my painting: hair, ink, water, dirt absorbed into paper. Hair swept along, as we humans are – at the mercy of cyclones, earthquakes – nature. Using the focus of painting I recalled back and further back beyond human antecedents, to the moment when I gained osmotic independence, when will alone moved me no longer tied to the sea or rooted in the earth.

In “Dust To Dust” I rose from the mud, pulled myself along the 30 foot long stage, rolling, lurching, dragging my body, cutting my hair, tossing pigmented dust, spilling ink, water misting me from above. I was completely in the zone, contemplating the beginning of life, the surge of will and the end of it. I was so focused rising from the mud, moving with it & returning to it.

Micro managing for a month to make it happen: calling in people to help, writing releases, amassing hardware, commanding crews – tension mounting from producing to performing within a breath.

Finally I found solace in the mud. When I was put in the pit it was cold but soon the mud was warm like my flesh. It softly and quickly responded to my shape, my heat like the perfect body pillow – it copied me until it became me. I began to drift and I was in the womb – the womb of the earth.

The 30 foot path was a life, the effort & the stress, passing through limits to find a way, to inch along. And at the end was another pit of mud. When I pulled myself into that pit it was death and release, and it felt like going home.

Performance over, I was lifted out of the mud & carried outside to be hosed off. Left alone for a moment I began to panic – like being ripped from the womb I began to shiver and wail. I was disorientated and nauseous, the sand, dirt & pigment were gritty in my teeth.

This was not hypothermia this was shock.

I had traveled to the beginning of my life force and forged a new understanding of the end of one lifespan. Earth, dirt, dust soil was a shape shifting device. It nurtured, composted and transformed.

Something snapped in me and I screamed like a banshee. Maybe it was the open wounds absorbing dirt and pigment, maybe it was the release of pressure after a month of organizing, maybe it was the jolt of temperatures and of reality, maybe it was the power of contemplation reaching understanding, maybe it was the combination that caused me to go into shock, to convulse, tremble & babble incoherently.

Now my wounds heal rapidly and my muscles ache healthy like after a good workout. Although exhausted I plan my space around the massive performance installation so to continue the contemplation, further informed, in paintings.

The Performance Installation is on view thru December 31st 2011.
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 3 – 8pm
Or by appointment contact –

SUFFER – 616 E9th Street (B & C) NYC

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dust to dust – November 9, 2011.

My performances pieces are as new to me as they are new to the audience.
I do not rehearse; I prepare for full body contemplation.
Making paintings in the weeks and months preceding
with the medium I will perform with:
dirt, earth pigments, ink, hair, water & watercolor paper leads me
to desire, to want to inhabit the process; to more deeply penetrate an idea.

My heart will pound when I climb from the pigment to perform.
From primordial humus to osmotic independence – I move.
And like in painting I understand the medium’s properties,
its behavior under manipulated conditions.
Moving from one primordial state to another,
my dialogue with that and my feelings for the spot-lit concept will be
a fresh once in life time event.

Laying it all on the line, knowing the construct,
understanding the reactivity of the elements
and entering the performance as an experiment:
Beauty beyond the safe or the proven is what I strive for as a painter.

Life oozed from the ocean and into the earth 2 billon years ago.
ALL living creatures including humans rose from that.
Between the passive moon and the active sun is the earth.
We humans roam free with the pull of the tides still in our organs.

The mess and filth we clean and control is in actual fact stardust.
The Earth is the compacted dust of thousands of exploding stars.

I emerge from the salted mud,
I mark my way across the 30 foot painting surface
leaving my hair and imprints of my form.
From dirt we came and to dirt we shall return and in between is life.
We are custodians of dirt nothing more and nothing less – it is grand job.

To make a tax free contribution to the production cost of dust to dust –
or email your pledge to –

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A NEW PERFORMANCE – “dust to dust”

Hair, dirt, earth pigment, water, paper; materials I have been using in my new painting. While painting I contemplate our human relationship with the earth, with nature. In this performance I commit my entire body to the contemplation and to the painting of a 30 ft work.

Dirt, mud, dust is a substance laden with biota, the primordial glup we came from and shall eventually return to.


On Wednesday November 9
7pm sharp – 8pm
Limited Seating

616 East 9th Street, New York


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on view & available, Sydney

Eleven years since I moved to New York. My apartment in the East Village is sanctuary. My studio/gallery up the block is what ever I want it to be. No strings, no commitments but to keep my body strong and my intellect expanding so I can make art.

Seven years ago I installed a birdhouse high up and just outside my bedroom window. This spring birds moved in. I saw them stashing in stuff for a nest. I felt so honored and excited that they trusted me enough to settle. When I slept I sensed them resting too and sent fondness to my bird tenants, expectant for their eggs to hatch like family.

In 2006 on the way to my Chelsea studio I had rescued a fallen fledgling sparrow from the wheel of an SUV. Achieving, running around, building, designing, even painting became all at once secondary to the magnitude and supreme beauty of nature. In the days that followed the little bird got stronger. I fed it baby food and water from an eyedropper. One morning there were no chirps. Little bird was laying down. I scooped it up in my hands. It was dying. I felt the enormity of its life force. When it took its lasts breaths of life in my hands, tears streamed down my face.

I made a painting called SPARROW DREAM. That’s the thing about painting you can paint the intangible, you can make the breeze visible, you can paint the story of your heart being opened to be comprehended in one glance, even before you do fully.

Yesterday as I rolled out my door I glanced up at my birdhouse to see Daddy sparrow bring his little chirping glories worms and things to eat in his beak. Now the baby birds are born my heart feels more than ever opened. That is the ultimate anniversary gift!

Top painting – Sparrow Dream 2006
Below painting – The Wind, 2005

NOW on view @ SUFFER NYC 616 Eth

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ch-ch-ch- changes…

My painting process has changed dramatically. I am out of control inspired, fiercely brave – ready to knock out blank space with an uber-alive mark. I sustain that pumped focus for fifteen hours straight, for days on end. Most of my career (age 16 to 40) I have worked up, and on entire exhibitions at once, paintings spread out over my studio, all at different stages of completion, different mediums, different sizes, on floor, wall and table. On a ferocious mission for the space, my mind, my hands, the images to all sing together. Exhausted I hear it and sleep so deeply satisfied and with paint on my skin.

What irreverent fire hides behind these eyes of mine. Wet images take shape and lay in my studio, my secret, my soul, my great love, my mind and the obedience of my body as tool with steady stamina.

And now at 42 I still have the power, the fortitude but I am no longer a loose cannon. Now I hold the energy a while, I understand what paint can do, how it behaves and what it means a little now. I work in smaller spurts. I know I could flood the East Village with paintings but I also know my affair with creative energy is endless. I do not want to run and go bezerk with it anymore, I want to sit with it, be it and act on it in calm, contemplative form.

Gone seem to be the days of being overwhelmed and besotted with mark making; now I have steady love.

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All Aboard!

A recently completed portrait now hangs in the window of my storefront gallery/studio. The little boy now fronts an exhibition of my abstract paintings. The portrait is a combination of three paintings I had in mind to do of the boy. As I painted I saw that I was synthesizing all three in one piece. The brain has a way of unifying, amalgamating images. In painting I am not big on editing or reworking. A painting should have a voice of its own, you should know your subject and your tools so well that the image falls together in one to four rushes so it maintains the confidence and restlessness of a child not the voice of the artist struggling for a likeness. Value does not equal effort; value equals effortlessness.

I must be the subject and paint it from the inside This portrait being three in one forced me to fiddle around with tiny brushes correcting miniscule details so it came into focus as one boy in one moment. The approach required for this painting to be resolved ran counter to how I like to work. But every painting commands me to understand painting more fully or open humbly to not knowing it fully.

I am a painter. Oil paint, enamel, acrylic, ink, watercolor, graphite, pastel, canvas, wood, paper, metal, performance art, abstraction, portraiture. I do not care to fit into a mould; I want to explore.

Painting is mercurial it slips between being known. Its allure is that it can be anything you want it to be. I cannot rest happily on one trick or technique. People may think they know me, my work, but it is an aspect of my lifelong romance with painting. I still feel butterflies because paint is my connection to the infinite.

I do not wish to know who, why, or what I am. Knowing is illusory and seems stagnant. I am not interested in fame or wealth or even happiness. I am into feeling life as transient. Paint is a trail tracking and connecting my body to the environment and the supreme force of nature. Human concerns, mundane survival requirements and emotion based on self are boring to me and if you base a life time on maintaining the illusion that you matter I think you are missing the boat.

Selected Paintings – Theresa Byrnes
616 E9th Street (B & C) New York

on view Sat & Sun 3-7pm

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I found a stack of beaten up weathered plywood on the corner of 9th & C. I flagged down a passer by to lug it to my studio up the block. It was Summer 2010 and I knew I now had the bulk of the materials for my new series.

When I arranged the wood on my worktable the conversation begun. How as painter I would collaborate with the beauty already in the marks and gestures made by the ravages of time?

Painting, being an artist is about seeing truth not just about making marks – it is an interplay & interpretation of marks already made by time, by the elements and by society. After September 11 2001 I was thrown into shock creatively. I questioned why there was such importance put on making art archival in a collapsing civilization. I realized that obediently painting within the rules was playing by the rules of the world market, a market based on the idea of the supremacy of progress and newness.

Finding workable & worn fragments to paint on was rare. I found my first batch in December 2001 at a junkyard in Penn State. “Big Wood” is a work from that time & it is in this show. In 2002 I found the fragment for “Eagle Smoke” on East Houston Street that is also in this show. To me finding bunged up ply was like finding treasure.

During the painting I am always aware of not overpowering the vulnerability of the surface but to work with its lines, flakes and chips – it had started a sentence and I want to finish it. The accidental & brutal marks are masterful in boldness & sensitive in deepness it is a challenge for me to approach the piece, put my marks on it so it all comes together, so you can not separate who did what, nature or the painter.

The materials and the painting aproach itself have a philosophy & meaning all its own – the supremacy & poetry of nature over our idea of progress.

When I had finished my performance, The Measure Of Man on the back of a truck on Xmas Eve I was euphoric. Being up there on that circle, staring down the idea of the perfection of mankind, oncoming traffic headlights spotlighting me, bleeding crude oil, ice cold wearing a full length bikini. Fierce defying the elements and confronting the symbols and products of our beliefs. Sitting in a diner afterwards I glanced at the TV above the bar and there was some red carpet event were the beautiful & the famous were pouting and twirling. Augmented, bleached, plucked and be-gowned they posed. I still had black traces on my neck, in my pores & hair. I looked like a homeless woman but I felt true glamour and beauty in the seeking of truth and having the guts to embody it.


Recent paintings – THERESA BYRNES

Opening Reception
6 – 9pm
Friday Feb 11
FEB 11 thru March 6

True beauty is not shiny, packaged, new, modified, augmented but the graceful death of matter.

After September 11th 2001 the imperative to make paintings archival, to exist for centuries, seemed suddenly ludicrous. The vulnerability of the human species and its civilizations became central to my concept of beauty and art. Histories, lives, architecture blown to bits, fragments of shelter, weather-worn – that is material to be relied on.
I paint on old plywood fragments; I let its decay direct the becoming of the painting. My works on paper use oil, salt water and human hair. It is a mix we spill into the oceans. I use what we want to hide and forget as a medium; as an artist that is a powerful pigment. I harness the results of destruction to make art, to find beauty in our missteps and to document them.
Glamour has a past; to achieve its polish requires cultural hegemony; to resist is to re-define beauty.

“…Byrnes is a provocateur whose sometimes uncomfortable offerings are designed to provoke a reaction in her audience. And by placing her body and mind at the centre of her art she challenges her own interpretation and her own vision. It is no surprise that her work has a strong evolutionary thread. It is organic, earthy, and, like the cycle of life theme of many of her paintings, it grows. Uncompromisingly she is woman’ channeling life, death, fear and joy, through an exposed, vulnerable human shell. It is all on the line, and that is the wonder of Byrnes’ art.” – Martin Newman, art critic The Daily Mirror, London, 2010.

SUFFER 616 E 9th Street (B & C) HOURS Thursday–Sunday 2–6pm

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Fresh start

photo - Andrzej Liguz

Maybe being an artist is all about arguing with the Gods. When I was a kid I wanted to be God or the Queen when I was grown. An artist has no power or authority but can build structures to talk with the Gods, can argue with politics in action. Artists have a foot in the door for shaping and critiquing the human psyche.

My first day out since the blizzard hit, three days of hibernation and I roll onto 6th Street and get hit in head by a shovel full of snow. Some guy shoveling-out his snowed-in car didn’t expect me to be wheeling past in the middle of the road. Welcome back to the Streets.

When I performed on the back of a truck, on the street, on xmas eve I felt like a mythological figure, like a force without trace of mortal identity. I was facing our God, the veins of the beat, what makes this civilization tick, this economy run – cars, trucks, transport, oil.

I have no answer, I don’t know how to stop the cycle of poverty vs. privilege and our belief in the pursuit of freedom at all costs. Freedom disguised as ease is an insidious lead. I suspect our environmental situation & lifestyle has something to do with believing God created the earth not believing the Earth gave us the ability to understand God.

I was suckled from ease. Life did not exist for me before the washer and dryer. Eliminating mundane work gives room for intellectual growth; it also gives room for tons of entertainment resulting in creative lethargy and tons of landfill. It is easier to be anti-consumerism when you have little money. And it is clear that economic abundance is tracable to exploitation of earth’s recourses. So where do I stand, a product of a system that has granted me the space to comprehend its flaws…

I did not expect to stare eye to eye with God. In the performance, on that circle, turning, almost naked freezing spread-eagle, 10 foot tall, starring into oncoming traffic, bleeding crude oil vulnerable and fierce. I felt courage, not one trace of doubt, not one smidge of fear – staring at what we believe and how we behave in the face. The monster of humanity dressed in steel and aluminum, shining pretty – on the go, innocent and able.

And so I have shrunk back to mortal form, a woman in a wheelchair quietly contemplating: the performance, the dawning 2011, my upcoming show of recent paintings, “DIRTY GLAMOUR” and figuring out how to pay my bills.

Link to video roughcut –

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The best gift ever.

Weeks of calling and arranging and not even knowing if I will rally enough funds to do The Measure Of Man performance guerilla style, off the back of a truck. But in my heart I knew if it is meant to fly the wind will come. I just have to build potential until it reaches critical-mass. Steve emailed he made a donation a week out from the xmas eve performance date, this bird was going to fly! Bobbi my art assistant flew in from Minnesota the next day. Oh shit here we go.

Then I started mega organizing, writing delegating designing. By the evening of the performance I am instructing 6 crews as well as getting ready to perform.

It feels like vaudeville, or some black ops mission. We are in the back of the truck with my 7 ft by 5ft, 400 pound performance apparatus. The operators Simeon & Bobbi are behind the wheel, I am cradled on the floor leaning back on Jamie, my 6ft 3 chief lifter.

The police have infiltrated our designated site in Soho. We pull into the street but have to drive on to avoid arrest. My heart is racing. My cell phone rings off the hook, the photographer Andy, the videographer, Valerie, the sound and light guy Henry whose motto is if you are going to do something wrong, do it well, ask me. “Shall we abort?”

We had to find another site within 10 min. Prone, in the back of truck on the phone with slurred speech and sirens going off the tension mounted. Yelling to be heard, I instructed the crews outside. I know we are at the brink, was I gonna find people to blame and let this slip? Then I came central, the piece was all about the imperfection of man and the supremacy of nature. I had to surrender to that. It would happen but not exactly as planned. The idea had independence it was always beyond me anyway. For it to happen I now had to surrender to nature, this baby had wings and now I had to let it teach me, let it open where it wanted to be.

On The Bowery. The gate of the truck opened. I on the wheel spread eagle and turning like a clock the soundtrack pulsed organic, lights of cars, buses, taxi’s, passers by stopped and watched oil drip from my body down onto watercolor paper in salt water, hair dropped from my head. The heater failed, I was ice cold but as I rose toward being 12 o’clock, upright again I saw the cars coming toward me and there I was confronting them almost naked on a winter night like on a crucifix bleeding crude oil. The moment of facing the street with who we are is a moment I will never forget.

Coming from the comfort of control to ice cold surrender. Disoriented by the isolation of the truck then to be thrust suddenly upright on a highway. I faced cars not consumers, the monster not mistress, it was overwhelming because I was not preaching, I was witness.

The wash down continues it will take days for all traces of black to leave my skin. And it dawns on me that if it had of worked as planned the first time I did Measure of Man (in my storefront in September) I would have had organ failure. The mock crude I had made with a lead base and was dangerously toxic. I was a screaming wretch that it didn’t bleed out successfully enough and now I am glad of it. In the truck the non-toxic oil bled until I was covered and it dripped into the water and the driving truck moved it like the ocean.

I am a painter and the whole performance was a contemplative apparatus to make a painting — an experiment proving nature’s poetry despite our clumsiness. The result, the performative painting is beautiful. I look at it. In it simplicity and humility it captures all of it. And I know I have to do it again.

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