Taurus Burns

“…Beyond looking at the work of other artists, it was important to develop compassion for myself and others in order to express life in painting. Compassion breeds awe—this is what I saw in the work of artists I admired. A sense of wonder and awe for humanity.”

Taurus Burns had never been inside a gallery and only been to a museum once prior to acceptance in the fine arts program at CCS. Since then, he has shown artwork in more than 30 shows and taken on an active role with the Detroit Artists Market planning and organizing art exhibitions.

“For some time, I considered myself primarily a gallery artist; however, in the last few years I have expanded beyond strictly showing in galleries to do several private commissions, murals, and public art projects,” said Burns. “I enjoy the challenge of commission projects—working at interpreting someone else’s ideas into visual form and using my talent to make art that other people enjoy.

“CCS helped prepare me for a career as an artist in several ways. First, the level of challenge and insight in the studio classes helped me to rapidly advance my art-making skills, and I was continually challenged to identify what I was trying to communicate through my art and present it professionally. This helped prepare me to show my work in galleries... and to be taken seriously.”

Burns began painting his first mural after he received an unexpected call from someone in the local art community (at the recommendation of another artist) asking if he would be interested in painting a mural at Caruso Caruso, a clothing store in downtown Birmingham. Although Burns’ background with murals was somewhat limited, an experience working as an assistant on a mural project with one of his instructors gave him the confidence to take on the challenge. For over three months, he devoted five days a week to completing the project.  

“It was truly one of the best experiences of my life!” exclaimed Burns. “While there is often doubt when stepping into new terrain, remembering all those who believed in me (many of whom I met at CCS, and I still maintain contact with) is often what gives me the courage to brave ahead in spite of my self.” 

In 2007, Burns participated in two more public art projects. The owner of Caruso Caruso invited him back to paint a three-dimensional four-foot epoxy tiger for his store to coincide with the Tiger Town initiative. That year Burns was also invited to submit a proposal at the professional artist level for the Detroit Festival of the Arts Street Painting Demonstration. Out of 80 entries, five were selected. Burns was among them.

“I wanted to make an image that the people of Detroit could connect with, so I created a scene based on the historic Eastern Market district,” the artist explained. “I found that many people at the festival were familiar with the Market and excited to see art that reflected their experience of it.”

Recently, Burns’ art has taken a new direction. After years of painting relatively large works, he has scaled down in size (all the way to 5-by-7 inches!) and began painting Detroit cityscapes. As part of his process, he takes photos to use as references and then manipulates the images in PhotoShop before taking paint to canvas. The response to his smaller paintings has been so great that he used skills he developed through a Web design class at CCS to create a virtual gallery (www.paintDetroit.com). Also, one of his paintings was admitted into the annual juried Michigan Fine Arts Competition and he will be the featured emerging artist at the 2008 Birmingham Art Fair.

“This is the first time I’ve entered into the art fair market, and I am interested in seeing what kind of response my paintings get,” said Burns. “I’ve also made it a goal this year to show paintings outside of Michigan and to enter more juried art competitions. At some point down the road, I hope to get into the Journal of New American Painting. In the past few years, I’ve found myself expanding into areas that I wouldn’t have previously considered. I think this is due to a growing confidence in my ability.”

Although Burns showed artistic promise as a child, the confidence he needed to pursue a career in a metropolitan art community stems in part from the real world education he received at CCS.

“I remember visiting the studios of local artists Robert Mirek and Allie McGee as part of an Advanced Drawing class with Lester Johnson,” recalled Burns. “Being able to see real, professional artists in their studio and talk with them about their art and the kinds of experiences they had in their career had a profound effect on me… it helped me to begin to envision myself as a successful artist.

“To this day, I credit my four years at CCS for the quality of my painting ability, both formally and conceptually. I was given a strong formal foundation that enables me to continually mature as an artist—to continually strive to make art that is both formally impeccable and conceptually sound.”

  • Graduation Year: 2002
  • Title: Gallery artist/muralist/public artist

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