August 2022, by Diane Sulg
Have you ever known an artist whose work is outrageously wonderful? Please meet my friend and artist-extraordinaire, Terrell Powell. I have known Terrell for 20 years, and his brilliant work never ceases to amaze me.
Terrell graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in art. He went to work immediately when a professor offered him studio space, and he was an illustrator for more than 20 years. On the side, Terrell was always making his own art and taking it to many prestigious shows.
Inspired by folk paintings, petroglyphs, and old pottery, his work slowly changed from what he called “disaster stuff,” meaning it had a decidedly dark edge, to a brighter and almost child-like art. But if anyone said his art would be perfect for their child’s room, Terrell bristled. He focused on taking his joyful art to a rare and sophisticated level.
While teaching at a community college in Austin, Terrell did a weekend art show where his income exceeded his monthly salary. He decided to focus solely on creating art and taking it to shows like the Atlanta Folk Fest, Main Street in Fort Worth, and the Plaza in Kansas City.
It was in Kansas City that Terrell’s alter ego, T-Bang, was born. When he traveled, Terrell always brought his paints and worked on small pieces in his hotel room. On this particular night at a Holiday Inn, he noticed a dreary picture of mountains and the moon painted on black velvet and screwed to the wall.
T-Bang had paint. He could help, and so he did. By adding a dog on a horse! This was just the beginning of T-Bang’s hotel art adventures — he has now given aid to art in more than 20 hotels. While a few hotel managers take a dim view of his “emergency art improvement,” others have become good friends, and some of them have even moved the improved art to their offices!
On a serious note, Terrell has built an impressive home and studio in the hills outside of Santa Fe. His work has diversified to include colorful abstracts painted on metal and covered with resin. He creates huge sculptures, like a 6-foot tulip or an amazing 10-foot totem of owls.
You can find his work in a prestigious gallery on Santa Fe’s Canyon Road and in major collections throughout the country. To see more of his art, follow Terrell Powell on Instagram.
A few artists may work as hard as Terrell does, but I doubt they have as much fun! A bookcase in his studio is filled with hand-carved miniatures of his outsized pieces, carefully painted with extraordinary details. Some of them he is still dreaming to create.
He builds metal totems taller than his soaring studio and dreams of adding a taller porch. He built a bench for a customer’s yard featuring a row of brightly colored cats. It weighed more than 500 pounds, and Terrell is still laughing about the effort it took to get it on and off the truck. And speaking of fun, he is in the process of writing a book about the art adventures of T-Bang, guaranteed to be on the bestseller list for both art and comedy!
Terrell is a joyous collector of folk art, and the home he shares with his wife Pat Phifer abounds with the art of famous Southern folk artists. Also lucky are the collectors of his work because both in life and in his work, Terrell Powell is simply art-rageous!
About the Author
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.