Gene Tanta is the author of Unusual Woods. He grew up in socialist Romania. He dreamed flickeringly of becoming an artist under the rationed TV shows of communist Romania. Born in Timisoara, Tanta relocated to Chicago in 1984. He earned his MFA (Iowa) and PhD (UW-Milwaukee) in poetry, taught 3rd graders and graduate students, edited and translated anthologies, and worked hard to master the art of composting. He returned to Romania in 2012-13 with a Fulbright grant. This experience rekindled his dream of making art. He is making art.
Marcel Duchamp called a urinal art while Andy Warhol saw business as the highest form of art. Tanta’s visual poetry lives in the space between, as a kind of sublimated irony.
Tanta’s current project is a multimedia series where faces paint over four-letter words. The faces of MLK, Emma Goldman, John Lennon, and the like are more than martyr portraits documenting thwarted civil rights movements, political ideologies, or aesthetic visions. These images are no monuments to nostalgia either, but a mourning with purpose—a chance to reflect. He uses food dyes because they saturate the paper better than inks and because he used to live near the Indian and Pakistani grocery stores along Devon avenue in Chicago.