Behind the Label with TL Duryea
Get to know the artist we partnered with for The Perfect Match collection.
Teneral Cellars partners with women-identifying businesses and artists for every collection of wine we produce to promote equity and visibility for women in their field.
For our newest collection, The Perfect Match, we commissioned artist TL Duryea to create a label that celebrates the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative and 50 years of Title IX. We’d say she knocked it out of the park! The All In Zinfandel label is the star of the collection; TL perfectly captured Billie Jean King mid-swing as she puts up a fight to not only win her match, but champion equity for women.
TL is an American artist and activist. She started a series of paintings called Sheroes that celebrates the achievements of notable women. She’s helped raise over $250k for women running for office, with an emphasis on WOC. She has also supported organizations like Fair Fight, Emerge, The Girl Scouts of America, Black Voters Matter, and more.
This interview highlights TL and the impactful work she does—we’re grateful for her collaboration!
Do you have a personal connection with Billie Jean King’s activism and history?
There are so many amazing women I have planned to paint for my Sheroes series, and usually I try to tie the painting to some event or newsworthy item when I paint them. Billie Jean King had long been on my list of women I wanted to paint, so I was thrilled that this project gave me the reason to paint her.
I am a child of Title IX and I grew up with that shaping my life. Billie Jean King was one of the women who pioneered the way for how women in sports, and all areas, have fought for equality. One thing I found interesting that I learned about her while painting this piece was that, for a tennis player, she isn’t particularly tall. Height gives a physical advantage in the game and so I was even more impressed about her achievements when I learned that she did not have that advantage.
Why did you choose the particular image you did and what went into that decision?
We discussed the merits of a painting of BJK in action playing tennis versus one of my standard portraits. I felt that she was possibly more recognizable in a tennis action shot, but that the work she does today is more in line with a portrait done in my Sheroes style. So I actually painted both a standard portrait and the action shot that is on the label. The portrait was based on a compilation of images I found online, but the action photo is based on the cover photo from BJK's autobiography, All In, which was taken by Kathy Willens.
Who else have you painted portraits of, and why did you paint them?
I've lost track of how many Sheroes I have painted, probably around 300 by now. I often paint notable women when they are in the news. For example, when Maxine Waters “reclaimed her time" or when the USWNT won the 2019 World Cup I painted Megan Rapinoe (the purple hair was so much fun to paint!). Some women I have painted multiple times, like Vice President Harris, Secretary Clinton, and Justice Ginsburg. I also have painted women who were less well known but who I wanted to amplify their accomplishments, like local State legislators. I've also painted women who have been forgotten by the history books, like Patsy Mink, the “Mother of Title IX”.
You're also an activist. How do you see art crossing over with activism and social justice? What's the importance or value of art; what can artists do to create social or political change?
For me, when I decided I was going to pursue the Sheroes series, it was essential that I didn't just paint these women, because that didn't feel right to me. I had to give back in some way as well. The goal of Sheroes, and the products attached to it, is to try to shift the narrative about women in leadership. Society really struggles with the idea of embracing women in leadership roles; we aren't used to seeing it and so often women in leadership are treated in disaparging ways. A good example is when women have ambition it's a bad thing, as opposed to men being celebrated for it. The Sheroes series is about celebrating women who have ambition and who are leaders. It's about helping to inspire all women to take up more space and not be content with the crumbs any more.
And then on a more tangible level, I’ve used my social media platform to help women who are running for office by calling attention to their campaigns. I was able to leverage my network to raise over $100k for the Vice President in her 2019 run for POTUS, and when she ran for VP with President Biden in 2020.
When did you start your Sheroes series, and what spurred you into action?
I've always been politically active, but didn’t do what I would label as “political art”. In 2016 I was largely focused on a series of colorful, mixed media floral splatter paintings. After the 2016 election I was devastated. Hillary Clinton was a huge inspiration to me my entire adult life. The fact that she could win the popular vote and yet we still wound up with Trump as President was just horrifying to me on every level.
Through the course of 2017, I became increasingly committed to seeing women elected to higher office and I struggled with what to do with my artwork since the cheerful splatter paintings didn't seem to fit where I was mentally. So I decided to assign myself a project for the month of January 2018. I was going to do a portrait a day for the month. I bought 30 8" x 10' wood panels and started my daily portrait series with a painting of Hillary Clinton on January 1st. One of the things I had been worried about in terms of the project was figuring out who to paint every day. Luckily, there were inspiring people in the news every day and by the end of the month I realized that most of the people who had inspired me to paint their portraits were women, and I needed to keep going because it was impacting all the people who followed me. Everyone was hungry for people to look up to—especially women. And then I took a photo of the portraits in a "grid" and everyone asked me to make some products with the image. That was how the Sheroes product line was born. All Sheroes paintings are painted in one day. The reason is to keep me loose as an artist and to avoid over-thinking things.
By shopping The Perfect Match collection, you can support TL Duryea’s work and help champion a more equitable world for women.