Ken Tisa’s oeuvre spans many media including beaded panels, ceramics, and painting. Despite its many forms, his work is best understood as figurative, narrative painting. His content deals with self-discovery, accessed through trance states akin to active imagination, touching on the earnestness of folk art and the skill evident in Minoan frescos.
Born in 1945, Tisa discovered Haitian beaded flags while in graduate school in the early 1970s, moved to Haiti to learn how to make beaded prayer flags, and subsequently abandoned painting for beading. Tisa then moved to California to perform with the psychedelic theater troupe, the Cockettes, and returned to New York as a part of the 1975 Whitney Biennial. In the mid-1980s, Tisa returned to exhibiting fusion of beaded, painted and sculpted works but withdrew from exhibiting during the AIDS epidemic. Affected by loss, Tisa began working again with ceramics, paint and beading.