We had the good fortune of connecting with Toni Toscano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toni, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I don’t think risk exists without a fear of failure. Therefore, I have never been much of a risk taker because I really don’t like failing. But over the last few years I’ve learned just how necessary it is to take risks and how failing is actually one of the most important things you can do. I’ve had to do a lot of work on reframing on how I think about risk. First I started with the goals I set each quarter. I used to make a lofty list of all the things I dreamed of achieving. Now make a list of 25 “risks” – these are specific actions I will take that push me out of my comfort zone and, if they go as planned, push me towards one of my larger goals. They don’t always go as planned, but that is the point, you have to fail a lot in order to succeed well. I still feel like I’m in the trial and error stage of my career but I am learning so much and growing every day.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
“This looks like a painting” is the most common thing I hear about my photography. I’ve started calling myself an impressionist photographer – there is a handful of other photographers doing similar work, but I don’t think it has become as popular as other styles yet. My work is inspired by themes of nostalgia, memory, and delight. I’m particularly fascinated with the way our brain stores memories – this has been a huge inspiration behind my style. Our memories are actually quite hazy and distorted. Our brain records only snippets of detail and emotion and then relies on our basic understanding of the world to fill the gaps. The photograph acts as an antidote for fading memories, but I’m interested in what arises when the photograph emulates the distorted qualities of a memory instead. There are so many things I’m proud of and excited to share with the world. I’d say I’m most proud of both the artwork and the experience I can give to people. This year’s lack of in-person events has really pushed me to think outside of the box. Last month during Austin Studio Tour I put a collection of work created during quarantine on display through a virtual outdoor gallery. I planted temporary QR codes along the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trail, distributed a map, and sent viewers on a self-guided art scavenger hunt. When scanned the QR codes opened a gallery of photographs I took at that specific location. I loved how immersive the experience became. You can still find the map on my website if you are interested! I’m also incredibly proud of the final artwork I offer to collectors. Admittedly I’m still fine tuning the business side of things, but for a while (and like many other artists do) I was really struggling with determining the value of my work. I wanted to offer high-quality fine art but felt limited by what I thought someone would pay. Just a few weeks ago I sat down and wrote out what my ideal “product” would be, one that I would be proud to sell—I want to share beautiful and thoughtful artwork, I want to collaborate with women woodworkers to hand make frames from locally sourced wood, I want to have control over the design and finish of the frame, I want to donate a portion of my sales to local art nonprofits, and I want to offer free and carbon offset shipping. Check back to see how this all works out, but I can say that right now I am confident and proud of what I can offer and that has already made a world of difference.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have to admit I haven’t spent much time in Houston, which I assume is the city you are asking about. I moved to Austin about five years ago so I can offer plenty of suggestions for what to do and see around here! There are plenty of things I’d still like to do and see in Houston. I would love to ride a bike along Buffalo Bayou trails. I would also really love to photograph the Buffalo Bayou Cistern. As far as Austin recommendations I love places off of the beaten path. Some of my favorite bars in town are Skylark Lounge, Sahara Lounge, and Dry Creek Café. I also love White Horse for two stepping. But my favorite thing to do is get outside, I spend a lot of my time on the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake or out on a kayak. During non-covid times I would say Canopy’s open house event “Open Canopy” is a must do. Texas Playboy sandlot baseball games is one of my favorite summer activities as well.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents had a huge influence on where I’m at today. They saw that I loved art and design at a really young age and while neither of them are artists themselves, they did everything they could to nurture the artist in me. I always remember having an after school art class to go to, art summer camp, photography competitions, etc. I’m very fortunate and thankful to have them cheering me on. My childhood best friend, Samantha Hinrichs, has also played a huge role. She is the first one I call up to bounce ideas off of. She is also the one to call me and encourage me to apply to that show or event even when I really don’t feel like it at the time. She is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. I love her so much.