Sunday, March 18, 2012


TY BUTLER MAKING ORDINARY OBJECTS SPIRITUAL.  This photograph resulted from, “An advertising job I had was for the manufacturer of these polishing pads that came in various colors," says Ty Butler.  "The photographs the client had taken before showed no detail in the product.  In general, the more ordinary the product – the more exciting the project was to me and the more surprised the client to see it for the first time.” For me, Hallelujah, this image rockets me into outerspace and into the affirmation that all things are connected. 

Hallelujah for SOUL connection with other SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIMS! Hallelujah for photographer Ty Butler and his profoundly deep and abiding love for LIGHT. On a warm sunny afternoon in February 2012, Ty surrendered himself to an interview with me, Hallelujah Truth! I have been hungering for years to just sit with Ty and listen to him talk about the way he configures his SOUL through the exploration of LIGHT and PHOTOGRAPHY.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Give me your personal definition of ART.

TY BUTLER: To me art represents contact with the inner self. It is like the bridge to what I really am that is beyond what I consciously know. It is very close to spirituality although art may deal more with forms, shapes and designs, whatever.

That which you are in touch with is like a clear crystal that has no interpretation, but as it comes through the filters of your life, it takes form and shape. It is very much a direct dial sort of experience that transcends all thought, transcends what you already think you know. And some times, it disrupts what you know—which is very liberating.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Talk to me about what you mean by “disrupt.”

TY BUTLER: I’ve thought before that to live an artist’s life you have the responsibility to disrupt daily patterns of thought and to establish overriding pathways. It is this disruption that takes us out of the muck we are in. No amount of thinking can ever do that.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Are you saying daily patterns of thought are “muck”?

TY BUTLER: I have a great respect for the organized thought patterns of the mind, and I am aware of how important they are in order to live in the world and be in contact with others. However, I don’t think that tape recordings—that which is already known—inspire. I don’t find the known inspirational. I only find inspiration in the unknown as it comes out into the known. This process lifts me, elevates me.
MORE THAN GUMMY BEARS! “In my mind’s eye, I could see the “aura” around the yellow Gummy Bear.  Those on the plastic fork would also reveal their “auras” if they were closer to the plastic plate.”—Ty Butler
ICE TRAY. “Pulling an ice tray out of the freezer I found myself falling into it.  When I select subjects to photograph in TYLIGHT I usually have the same sensation upon looking closely.” —Ty Butler

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: In the past year-and-a-half, you’ve been recovering from a brain injury resulting from a fall from the roof of your house. What have you learned in the past months about patterns—the known, versus creative thought—the unknown?

TY BUTLER: I have had to learn to respect all aspects of life. And that includes respect for the orderly facets of the mind. Channels have been established in our brains to relate to the world. For me, it is really a balancing act between the inspired and what the mind already knows.

That which I am seeking to contact and which results in art can never be had through mimicry or what has been done before. That is my driving force. I don’t understand why anyone wants to do what has been done before. To me, it defeats the purpose of what is the inspirational force that results in art.


TY BUTLER: Spirituality to me is the direct contact and experience of the source of ALL. It is direct experience of the infinite.
DIRECT EXPERIENCE WITH THE INFINITE. This photograph is one of my most favorites of Ty’s work.  In response to what he titles, “Lost Work Glove,” I want to weep. It is this connection with something universal and deep that allows him to become engaged with ordinary objects like this work glove. He wrote for this caption, “Amazing the beautiful things one sees while walking the dog.”

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: What is the connection between the ART you make and your spirituality?

TY BUTLER: The more pure the inner contact is, the more powerful the resulting art will be. For me, the connection between my spirituality and photography is inner contact without conscious thought. That’s a real hard thing to achieve in photography because photography is technical on so many levels. The way I do it is to keep my attention on the light itself rather than the subjects it falls upon. It is hard to answer when people ask me, “What subjects do you like to shoot?” Because for me, it is the experience with light that matters.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: What is it about light?

TY BUTLER: For me, light and spirituality are the same thing. Now, the concept of “art” is tricky. In the art world, there are many expected and respected formats. Those come into play in terms of selling art. I am not really concerned if my art is printed on this paper or has this amount of longevity—those are marketing considerations, more like after thoughts. I’m interested in the direct experience of art.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Can you give me an example?

TY BUTLER: I can tell you that the greatest teacher that I’ve had in my life would be recognized by very few people as being an artist. I worked in a transformer factory, one that made overhead transformers like the ones on telephone poles that are filled with oil. His name was Don Smith. This was back when I was just getting out of college that I met and worked with this man. At his workstation, he tied together the wires and components that made the transformer inside, and he did it with little strips of white cloth. He could have tied any old knot, but he tied the most perfect little bows with these pieces of white cloth and when he finished his job, the transformer was beautiful because of his loving touch. In the next station, the entire inner assembly was submerged into a tank of oil, and no one ever saw it again. He never looked beyond the station where he worked, and he always tied the white bows perfectly.

That is what he taught me about art—the direct experience of making it.
“THE POSSIBILITIES THERE ARE ENDLESS,” Ty expresses about this piece that he entitled: Hairbrush and Scarf--compliments of the Dollar Store Prop House.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH:  In what way does your ART enhance your SPIRITUALITY?

TY BUTLER: (Chuckling)…Well…through inner contact with the great unknown, the awareness of my spirituality grows. It’s what I am all ready, but I am waking up to what is there and strengthening my contact with it. 

I have never been able to understand why someone can be such a great artist and at the same time apparently be a bad person. I don’t understand how that works. It seems like strong creative contact would lead to good deeds in life. I don’t understand why that isn’t necessarily the case because spirituality has its own morality.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Has SPIRITUALITY always been a source of your ARTMAKING?  Why? If not, when did the SPIRITUALITY emerge?

TY BUTLER: The love of light came first. Light represented a way to keep in mind the infinite on a daily basis. I saw what light reflects on and not light itself. I don’t think one can see light itself. Instead, we see light bouncing and reflecting off the surfaces of everything that makes up the visual world—light reflections.

Photography was a way to pay for my meditative experience.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: When did you start doing photography that was connected to your spirituality?

TY BUTLER: In college. The best training that a photographer can get is the observation of light in as many circumstances as possible. So the early part of my development was seeing light reflection and shadow in many different circumstances. I didn’t think that I knew what anything looked like. Any one thing could be experienced in so many different lighting situations that I felt kind of ignorant of reality.

So the quest became to see if there was a “visual essence” in everything around us. And my work with photography has really been the attempt to capture this “essence” and share it with others. That is why I kept on being a photographer—it is my desire to do that.

Of course, I have never seen the “visual essence” but I have gotten a whole lot closer than I would have otherwise.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Define “visual essence”….

TY BUTLER: Visual essence is a self-emanating light coming from objects. These objects are their own illumination. In my photographs, this is the look I am trying to capture. There are some certain states of mind and ways of seeing where you can glimpse such “things.”
VISUAL ESSENCE OF ICE. Ty created this photo, Bourbon on the Rocks, for the cover of Emory University’s Science Magazine that contained an article on the effects of alcohol in young people.
PARTY STRAWS. “Things appeal to kids for a reason.” –Ty Butler    

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: What is your purpose for making ART?

TY BUTLER: For me the art I make is a by-product of the inner contact.Part of the reason I came back is to share the reality of how each and everything around us is a piece of art.  (Ty is referring to his recovery from the accident he had in November 2010. During his lengthy recovery from falling from the roof, he was placed in a doctor-induced coma so that his brain could heal. There were times that he wasn’t expected to survive.)

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Long before your accident, you had photographed numerous every day objects to reveal them through “TYLIGHT,” the lighting system you designed and patented.

TY BUTLER: Yes, for example, once, I went to the junkyard and got twenty or so pieces of junk in different shapes and configurations. I was completely overwhelmed the rest of the day after I got back. I looked at the pieces in TYLIGHT and each thing was its own “art.”

This “art,” which is inherent in everything, is something we don’t normally see, but I could see “art” in each thing sitting there.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: And you want to make a distinction between the “art” inherent in everything—its “essence”—and the piece of art which is valued for its obeisance to the rules of composition imposed by the academy?

TY BUTLER:  Yes, if I wanted to make one of these photos of junk into a piece of “art,” I would have to crop it and be concerned about the various rules of composition.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Your career in advertising began in 1978, and you had been doing commercial photography for more than 30 years up until your accident…is that right?

TY BUTLER: My career as a commercial photographer has been an excuse to support my investigation of light. By fulfilling my responsibilities to my clients, I developed a new lighting system. It took me three years to design and build, and I patented Tylight in 1991.
ON THE BRIDGE OF TYLIGHT. Ty Butler poses on top of the photographic lighting system he invented, built, and patented. He was told that his ideas wouldn't work! He followed his intuition anyway and succeeded!

The purpose of TYLIGHT is to give things the appearance of being self-illuminated. Although the light is not coming from within the object, it is a way of showing what its true visual nature is.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: And now, you are retired from commercial advertising, can you tell me more about the SPIRITUAL “purpose” of your coming back from your brain injury? How does ART figure in?

TY BUTLER: On November 7, 2010, the day I fell, is the day I stopped trying to find my place in photography and in art. I had 33 years of programming of having a purpose for everything.

Now, my photography doesn’t necessarily need a purpose. When I became interested in photography when I was 14, I didn’t care about showing anybody my pictures. I was so involved in making the photographs. In college my photographs stayed in a box under my bed. I wasn’t interested in showing them because it was the process of taking them that mattered to me.

When I was building TYLIGHT, it took three years to build because I only worked on it when I was intuitively guided--never when I was in conscious thought.

I was told by others that TYLIGHT wasn’t going to work. It just wasn’t the way lighting should be done. So I kept TYLIGHT hidden and followed my intuition. All those years, I had faith in what was going to happen, but I didn’t have any tangible proof of what the result would be. It was only after hundreds of hours of construction and I had completed the invention, that I thought about how TYLIGHT could be used in business.

I built TYLIGHT out of personal philosophical curiosity and a drive to see something real. I would never have done it if I had had to produce a certain kind of result.

Instead, I wanted to see and share my sense of discovery, amazement and respect for the world around me and how far it is from the stereotypes of what is thought to be beautiful and what isn’t.
TOILET TISSUE. At the grocery store, looking at a roll and thinking “This is beautiful.”—Ty Butler

HOME DEPOT PLANT CHAIN. In TYLIGHT, ordinary brass becomes glowing gold that illuminates the surface around it.  Someone approached me after seeing this photograph and asked me to shoot his gold plated jewelry. Knowing his intention, I refused, partially because of the inspirational way TYLIGHT came to me in meditation, I always observed strict rules on how it was used. –Ty Butler

SWISS CHARD. When I looked into our refrigerator, I saw this photograph looking down from space.  The frowning face was something revealed in TYLIGHT. In that world, faces are seen everywhere.—Ty Butler

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Any concluding remarks?

TY BUTLER: For me, spirituality has its own interior guidance for one’s life.  It has its own morality. I don’t need books or somebody else to tell me how I should live. The stronger my spiritual contact the better and happier my life will be.
BUTTON ON BLUE. I brought home my mom’s button collection after she passed.  No wonder she loved these things.  This one is about an inch in diameter. —Ty Butler

SHARED APPRECIATION FOR OTHERNESS.  Hallelujah Truth, me--visionary artist, embraces  soul mate  Ty Butler, visionary photographer. The occasion for this photograph was significant! A group of friends celebrated Ty's sixtieth birthday in the of summer 2011. Even more importantly, we enthusiastically welcomed his return to life after a traumatic fall from the roof of his house in November 2010 and near death experience in the months following. Ty says he returned for a reason! Hallelujah! (See my blog entry on how I met Ty Butler.)

BIRD FOOTPRINTS. My pet cockatiel walked across the sand and then did a little dance.  It happened on the first attempt. —Ty Butler

A NOTE FROM TY BUTLER REGARDING THE IMAGES YOU SEE ON THE BLOG POST HERE: The appearance of the following subjects do not result from computer enhancement but are natural results of illumination in the TYLIGHT Lighting Invention.  After finishing the invention, my overwhelming dilemma was not “what to” photograph but what “not to” photograph. Our world is a place of wonderful beauty.  It is literally everywhere we choose to see.


1. Cecelia Kane (painter, drawer, performance art)

2. Robey Tapp (book sculptor, collagist, painter)

3. Karen Phillips (painter)

4. Carol Ruckdeschel (naturalist, painter, drawer)

5. Flora Rosefsky (drawer, painter, collagist)

6. Jesse Bathrick (in progress)

7. Kenny Whitfield (Bahamian Wood Carver)


  1. Extraordinary images...inspired interview. I dove into the cosmos with the prehistoric raft of a work glove sprouting green shoots in outer space.
    The ice tray felt like a science fiction movie set. I connected with Don Smith's lovingly tied bows that would soon be plunged in oil, out of view of appreciative eyes. I remember reading about the craftsmen of medieval French towns who were given a section of a gothic cathedral to carve and decorate as the church was being constructed. Even the guys who got the back of the cathedral treated their space with as much care as the front.

  2. I am so happy to see this wonderful exposure and sharing of talent and compassion from a true artist, Tyler Butler. His enthusiasm about the 'what ifs" from the simplest objects is contagious. That was such a large part about the enjoyment of working with Ty on various photo shoots over the years - with someone I'm glad to call my friend. - AT

  3. See See, thank you for your comments...I love the story about Don Smith too...inspirational--doing work that no one will ever see. Doing it for having done it!

    Thanks Alan! You know that I share your enthusiasm for Ty Butler! I appreciate your sharing your thoughts here!

  4. Amazing intriguing work and beautiful interview!Thank you!

  5. Thank you Mariangela! Ty's work and spirit are deep and profound. I am so glad you SEE it!