Standing inches from what will soon be a city of French landmarks, Tyler Kay paints her new dream on the corrugated steel exterior of a Heights warehouse.

The French Farm, a European food importer located in the Heights, commissioned the 24-year-old artist—provided with only a French cookie box as inspiration—for the simple, sketch-like composition envisioned for the otherwise drab exterior.

Kay is used to adding personality to buildings. If you’ve ever visited the Downtown Club and noticed the 3-D Sharpie-pen aerial sketch of the Houston skyline, then you’re already familiar with her work. Saint Arnold Brewing Company commissioned Kay’s rich mural of red roses that towers over guests like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Her artistic vision captivates luminescent and energetic floral arrangements in the style of Marcella Kaspar, an Australian artist that influences her paintings. “Each mural project is unique, and it’s always fun when I can use my own experiences or knowledge to develop a creative vision,” Kay says.

It wasn’t always so easy for this Houston artist to find beauty, though. Growing up, she attended eight different schools, which created a cycle of making new relationships and leaving them behind. When she met Christopher Saiz at Cinco Ranch High School, he was someone who showed her a new meaning of love. They dated until a tragic car accident took his life just before Christmas 2011.

Later, in college, Kay’s moments of solitude became a means of survival—and a chance at redirection. Unable to share her trauma with many, a brush and a blank canvas became her coping mechanism. The artist reconnected with her artistic abilities where she would explore different forms of beauty. For her, the shape and form of a flower became a new discovery of serenity.   

“I’ve developed a stronger identity of who I am and what I’m capable of since I’ve began my pursuit as an artist,” Kay says. “After Chris’s death, I spent a lot of time reflecting. I was supposed to lose him in order to realize how short life is.”

Graduating from UH with her master’s in arts leadership this spring, Kay will journey to Normandy, France, for her residency at Centre Pompadour, a feminist creative community. There, she plans to develop and complete a new series, Glitch. Influenced by the word’s definition—“a sudden, usually temporary malfunction”her floral series uses radiant colors and shapes that burst from the canvas. Each painting’s title represents the date of a life-changing moment for the artist. Glitch 12.20, a painting of a blooming lavender flower outlined with iridescent colors, is dedicated to Saiz.

“I aspire my floral arrangements to capture the attention of the viewer, even if only for a moment of brevity, and grant them mindfulness,” Kay says. “There is beauty everywhere, all you have to do is open your eyes.”

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