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Meet Local Artist Tysen Knight

The Brilliant Benches of Palm Springs

There is a direct line between art and society. The simple swoop of a brushstroke can connect the viewer and the creator, the public and the private. Artistic expression is a two-way street that invites observation and reflection, and nobody understands this dichotomy better than Tysen Knight.

Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs

“I describe my style as pop urban art with a little splash of fine art in there,” Tysen explains. “I draw inspiration from all those different mediums. I started out as like a graffiti artist and painting on jeans for kids at school when I was in high school and things of that nature. But I was still fascinated with fine art so I can kind of blend those together. I can do fine art. I can do pop art. I can do graffiti art, so I just came up with my own coin, my own phrase: pop urban art.”

Tysen’s aesthetic is transforming the benches around town into veritable conversation pieces. Their electric array of colors invigorates our already iconic landscape. “Palm Springs definitely has his own unique, actually beautiful style. I think the modernism and the architecture is amazing. I just feel as though I was able to bring a style that was different and we were able to kind of gel it together.”

Fans of the bench makeover initiative will be fascinated to learn that the concept began on a different medium altogether: film. “I came up with an idea to produce a street art documentary,” recounts Tysen. “I submitted it to film festivals and they got selected for the AmDocs Film Festival right here Palm Springs at the Camelot Theater.”

The trip down memory lane continues as Tysen narrates, “Russell Pritchard from the Palm Springs Arts Commission came to the screening of my documentary.” The two collaborators melded their visions for bringing passionate creativity to public spaces in the form of bench murals. “We were able to get it all laid out and I started in July of 2019, the hottest day of the summer,” Tysen notes with a reflective chuckle.

Though the artist’s ideas were grand, he had to start small. “They granted the funds and they gave the approval to do it as a test pilot project, just to see how the community reacted to it and the business owners, because that was very important to get everyone involved. The first set of benches, I did 11, the first set was kind of, they wanted icons.”

Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs bench

Tysen depicted such luminary figures as Elvis, Marilyn, and Warhol in his first round of creations, but he also mixed in some of his personal inspirations. The inaugural series of bench art included Basquiat and Keith Haring, to name a few. “Most people knew who Andy Warhol was, but they weren’t too familiar with Keith Haring and Basquiat, so I think that was something that we was able to educate people on who those artists were, and along with having like Judy Garland and just kind of that really old school chic Palm Springs feel. I think we did a good job mixing, blended them all together.”

Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs bench

As always, Tysen masters the art of understatement. His bench endeavor isn’t just a good job; it’s an outlet for dozens of tastemakers chosen by Tysen himself. “We were able to employ over 40 something artists. And I looked around, searched on the Internet and I was looking around and I didn’t see any other city that did this to this magnitude.”

For Tysen Knight, the power of painting lies in the delicate relationship between the audience and the artwork. “A lot of artists and people here that do appreciate different genres of art, they’ve just probably never been exposed to it. So I think that’s a good thing that we’re able to expose people to other forms of art and they get an understanding of it. I think that’s a really cool thing.”

Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs

Ever humble, Tysen credits his team of dreamweavers with the success of the popular bench project. “Just being able to bring other artists into the fold and just kind of, not changing the whole dynamic of the art scene here, but just adding more layers and elements.”

Harnessing the majesty of the moment, Tysen concludes, “I feel like we’re just on the cusp of making history in Palm Springs.”

And you have a front-row seat to our history as it continues to be made. We saved a bench for you.

By Kevin Perry

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Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs bench

Artist Tysen Knight of Palm Springs bench

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painted bench

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