Born Tyrrell Winston Mooney | His professors and classmates will remember him as Tyrrell W. Mooney, Class of 2008 — but as Ty’s career developed, he dropped the surname. “I looked at Andy Warhol having been Warhola,” he said, “Ralph Lauren having been Ralph Lifshitz. Those were two of my models.” Today, he is Tyrrell Winston.
Raised in Orange County, California | Father: Lutheran pastor. Mother: Art teacher. “There was always this kind of angst that I had, growing up, being in the suburbs … this is boring here, too ‘cookie cutter.’ It was like, the grass is greener somewhere else … L.A., New York.”
Transferred | “I’d gone to Cal Lutheran for two years; I had a good group of friends, I was in good standing at the school … but I just woke up one morning [in 2006] and said, ‘You know, if I don’t leave Southern California … ’ ”
Arts administration major | “I’m so thankful that I went to Wagner, and that I didn’t leave New York after graduating, because I can’t imagine that I would have the career, the life I do now. … New York gives me so much energy. It takes a lot, but it is like a giant playground.”
“My classes with Todd Price and Jebah Baum were stoking this fire in me to learn about the history of contemporary art.”
Irrationally inspired | Tyrrell’s first exposure to the Dada artists of early 20th century Europe was life-changing — and it came on a Wagner class field trip to the Museum of Modern Art.
“Honestly, I can still remember what the air smelled like that day. … I was just overwhelmed with this idea of ‘antiart’ in this collective of artists who marched to their own beat and worked with found materials and created new contexts — and that new context created new worlds.”
Today, Ty is a well-known artist who often works with found objects, like his Dada heroes did. Ty’s best-known pieces incorporate deflated basketballs and used basketball nets into works that are particularly popular with collectors from the world of athletics.
First job, post-Wagner | Real estate; ended with the Crash of 2008.
Last job, pre-art career | From 2014 to 2018, for “MTV Re:Define,” the network’s big annual charity art auction. “MTV was kind of a grad school to me,” Tyrrell said. “It opened doors and gave me access to spaces I probably would have never seen.” MTV downsized “Re:Define” in 2018 — about the same time Ty’s art career started moving.
The big break | When a Belgian gallery approached him about exhibiting at Art Brussels, a big annual show. “They sold out the entire booth a day before the fair opened,” Ty recalled, “and then sold pretty much everything I had available in my studio the next day. I went from having never sold anything for over $2,000 to having work selling for over $20,000. … It was one of the more insane feelings that I’ve had — it’s like, all of a sudden, you’ve got the capital you need to continue working, knowing that I stuck to my guns.”
‘Embedded history’ | Tyrrell has said that these two words encapsulate the meaning of his art. “I’m taking these things that are forgotten or ignored … you see a deflated basketball or a cigarette with lipstick … it’s trash, it’s used up, it’s done. … But I’m fascinated that I can give something a second life,” Ty says. The term “embedded history” refers to the life stories of past owners that are embedded in the objects they use and discard.
Marriage | In 2018, Ty married Coco Cook, a woman he’d met at the opening for a friend’s art exhibition. “I saw Coco outside, and I was quite struck with her,” he said. They’d begun talking when she mentioned she was thirsty, “so I ran across the street and bought her a bottle of water at the bodega. I thought I’d just buy myself 10 minutes … and now I’m married to her. She’s absolutely incredible. She’s a photographer, art director, and she has really helped me push my work to a level that I did not know I could go to. … I couldn’t imagine a better partner in helping me navigate this.”
And a baby | Just one month before our interview late last summer, Ty and Coco had a baby, Helaena Winston. “I did not know that it was possible to love something so much,” the new father said.
Kick it | “I signed a shoe deal with Reebok,” Tyrrell said. “I’m doing two shoes that come out in 2022. As far as I know, I’m the first artist that has done this. … The initial connection was because of the basketballs, the nets … It’s a childhood dream come true” for this skateboarder and basketball enthusiast. “It’s a very full-circle, very cool moment, and not a lot of artists get that.”