By Raven Jordan

Daisha Board Gallery hosted a moderated artist talk with William Toliver Wednesday night.

Toliver, a self-taught artist based in Dallas, has a solo exhibit titled “After Dark” in the gallery until Jan. 14. Just weeks after opening the current exhibit, the artist was in conversation with life coach and consultant Rah Kalon.

During the talk, Toliver discussed the surrealism in his current work, which spans 37 designs, the contrast and significance of the color red in the paintings and what inspires him.

Kalon kicked off the conversation with a question about where his art begins and ends.

“I want to start off with a question about the alpha and the omega of your work, the beginning and the ending of it,” Kalon said. “What was it like starting this exhibit, and then what was it like dropping it off when it was completed?”

He was going through a transformative time around February/ March when he was trying to figure himself out as an artist. Though his life seemed good from the outside, he was struggling on the inside, he says.

Art from William Toliver’s “After Dark” series | Photo by Raven Jordan

A lot was going on in life. After five years of teaching, he quit his job and was trying to find himself through art. Some of that previous teaching experience—and his internal struggles— played a part in some of his artistic process.

“You can understand not only how to deal with different groups of people but also how you deal with conflict and interacting with others. So, having to become aware of how you process interactions and deal with conflict— so many things played a role in how I wanted to convey these pieces.”

Within months, he had produced the “After Dark” series.

“It was like a big sigh of relief when I got here, and dropped everything off, because I had talked about this moment five or six years ago,” he says. “Seeing it come to fruition now, I never would have imagined that.”

Unlike his previous work, which includes vibrant colors, Toliver leaned into the unknown and went with something he’s not used to with more vulnerable pieces.  

“This work is the most I’ve connected with anything I’ve ever done.”

Each piece has red, bringing attention to some element whether it’s through strings, a broken red circle, halo or clouds. Toliver explained he chose the color red because of its power and minimalism.

“Red is a powerful color, but it’s also very offsetting,” he says. “With the black and white, I like the minimalist idea, then the red is enough to tie everything in together but puts emphasis on the thing I wanted to show as important. I chose this shade of red because it’s soft, yet strong.” 

The art leaves room for individual interpretation and experience, and Toliver makes it clear he’s not going to define how people should feel about how they reflect on the paintings. 

In a way, the words on canvas and larger pieces are all connected and can be treated as a maze for viewers, he says.

After the conversation between Toliver and Kalon, the floor was opened to questions from the audience. 

Questions about his work “Angel” came up quite a bit. It’s a depiction of a naked figure embracing a cloaked figure representing the Angel of Death.

“After Dark” is on exhibit at Daisha Board Gallery now until Jan. 14. Gallery hours are 12 -6 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and 1-6 p.m. Saturday.