art:. Justine TF, TAZA, A Social Coffee House

social is as social does

When you know what you know, do you then do what you know. The art of Justine TF is a journey, thus far, in asking this question and also answering it. The California native found artistic salvation in a return trip to her hometown of Arcadia and a visit to a coffee house that reminded her to be a dream chaser. Now, in conversation with Justine TF.

c.: Can you share how you’re connected with TAZA A Social Coffee House?

Justine TF.: Its the coffee shop that was always missing in Arcadia where I grew up. In high school, I went to Starbucks to hang out with friends. There weren’t many independent coffee shops around then. I came home one summer after college and discovered that TAZA was right down the street from my mom’s house and went to go check it out. I loved everything about the place: the wood-paneled wall, unique tables, and overall decor with reminders to chase your dreams.

I introduced myself to Sonny, the barista who was working there that day, and it turns out he was the owner. We chatted about life, art, and coffee, and not two days later we hung up my art at TAZA for the first time. Since then, we’ve kept in touch on a regular basis. He’s a mentor to me. This year, he reached out and suggested we do a spring showing.

c.: Are you a coffee drinker? If so, do you have a default coffee? And when do you like to enjoy your coffee?

j.tf.: Yes. First thing in the morning and maybe one in the afternoon. My default is a drip black coffee. Occasionally, I’ll amp it up to a latte with extra sugar.

c.: How did the idea to exhibit your work at TAZA come about?

j.tf.:  When I first introduced myself to Sonny, my intention was to share art at TAZA. It was a gutsy move, but the interior and his choice in decor immediately resonated with me as an artist. I felt that my work could really add to the vibe. People get shit done when they come into TAZA. They’re chasing their dreams when they bring in their laptop and order a cup of coffee. And my artwork is all about chasing your dreams.

c.: Now that’s a bold statement. I love it! Can you share some thoughts on the works you selected to appear there?

j.tf.: Currently, I have two pieces up that were created in the wake of a major change in my life. I was a graduate student in a healthcare program trying to get a doctorate’s degree, and I realized halfway through that it wasn’t for me. The only thing I ever really wanted to do was just to make stuff and create art. These two pieces represent my letting go of the false expectation and yearning to be someone I’m not. There’s more to life than trying to get a well-respected and high-paying job for retirement security.

You have to discover what your true purpose is in life and live up to that. For me, it’s inspiring people to do what they want.

c.: Speaking of doing what you want. Many artists have creative processes, what is yours like? And, how do you know when the process of creating is done.?

j.tf.: My creative process is a lot of sitting around and listening to music, trying to draw, and feeling frustrated that certain lines I draw aren’t showing up where I want them to show up.

But in terms of where my ideas come from, I meditate. Meditation is a tool for accessing the mind on many different levels, and for me, it allows me to pay attention to what I feel is important and worthwhile to represent in the physical world as art. When I’m creating, I’ll know I’m done after a few times of coming back to it and all I’m doing is making negligible anal-retentive changes, like stuff that only bothers me but, really, no one else would notice. That’s when I’m like, “Okay, I gotta get this one out.” Some pieces are just left in progress forever. It’s the potential of what a piece could be that makes it incredible. And in a sense, all of my works are works in progress.

Making art for me is like following an asymptote. Perfection is ideal, but it’s also unattainable.

c.: Especially in art. Art and coffee are quite inter-related. At times one is credited with inspiring the other. How do the two work together for you?

j.tf.: I think the experience of smelling and tasting coffee is really inspiring to me. It makes me be present. Art can only be made in the present moment, which is the only time I have to step to into my true self.

c.: What do you think the value of art is to the space of a coffee shop. And, or in the greater scheme of coffee culture, what is the value of art to the culture of coffee?

j.tf.: A coffee shop provides its customers with a place to socialize, to have time to themselves, or to get work done. The value of having art up at a coffee shop is that it enhances the experiences of people who hang out there. For people who socialize, art is a conversation piece. For people who get work done, it’s a nice distraction, a break from staring at the computer screen.

And then getting people into their own internal dialogue is something I feel is very important, even if it’s just for the few minutes they’re waiting in line to get something to-go. I try to make my art inspire self-reflection in the most constructive way possible. When you look at a piece of art, all these thoughts are inevitably going to surface, and it’s up to the artist to determine what they want to provoke. Personally, I want people to question themselves, to see whether or not what they’re doing in life aligns with their personal beliefs. I think for the people who do get something out of it, my art serves as a private, gentle nudge in the direction of their truest expression of themselves.

In the greater scheme of coffee culture, art has an integral role in the making of coffee itself. Everything about making coffee from where the beans are grown to when they are harvested to how they are roasted is art in its purest form. It’s the creation of something from the collective presence of many other things. Coffee is art.

You can visit Justine’s art here.

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