Artist Tara L. Dean is fascinated by form, line, color, composition and their interplay. Dean weaves those elements together using abstraction to produce bold acrylic paintings that blur the lines between reality and interpretation.

While her paintings have abstract qualities “you can see realistic elements in all of them whether it’s a flower or a horizon, a figure.”

Since early February, visitors to the 5.4.7. Arts Center have been looking at Dean’s artwork. Sunday afternoon, a closing reception took place.

Dean has derived inspiration from such things as a tree she saw in Marysville or a misty summer morning when she was jogging and the mist on her glasses looked like snow in June.

She wonders, “How can I take something that already exists and twist and turn it into something new?” she said. “I do that with a lot of my figurative work to remind you of the figure instead of just painting the figure.”

Usually Dean will form a sketch in her head before sitting down to work then make subtle changes as she is painting.

“I find I get a better final product if I’m working toward a specific concern,” she said. “It will change as I’m putting it on canvas but at least it will be going in the same direction.”

Dean, who lives in Manhattan, said the Flint Hills inspire her, and every painting she does has a story.

“I like to look at the landscape and draw colors out of it,” she said. “I paint a lot of vibrant blue skies. Sometimes a concept is working in my head and I want to find a different way to experience it.”

Dean had her first art show at a Manhattan mall in 1996 when she was in high school. While she took a drawing class and worked as a figurative model in art classes, she obtained her undergrad degree in Spanish and anthropology. She received her master’s in political science.

Over the years, Dean has taken an art class here and there at the UFM community center in Manhattan. The time she devoted to painting fluctuated until 2007 when she made it a full-time activity.

“When 2007 came I didn’t look back,” she said. ”With anything, the more you do it, the better you should get.”

In 2010 someone asked Dean how much she would sell a piece for and she has been selling her work ever since.

These days she displays works on her website,, and she has shows booked up to January of 2017 when she will be showing in Lincoln, Kansas.

“It’s cool,” she said. “I like it.”

The next exhibits at the 5.4.7 Arts Center will be Kiowa County High School art classes, from April 21 to May 5 and the Fort Hays State University drawing students exhibit from mid-May through June.