Iosua Tai Taeoalii

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Tai Taeoalii (born July 14, 1977) is an American/Samoan award-winning filmmaker and mixed-media artist.


Tai is a Samoan/American artist with a professional art career spanning over two decades. Tai draws inspiration from his love of music, nostalgia and daily observations.

In the early 1980’s, growing up biracial in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, Tai self-identified as an outcast. He experienced some turbulent teenage years but says he was fortunate to discover that the arts were a remedy to expressing his frustrations. Tai experimented with a variety of art-forms, including graffiti, tattoo, music & film. He did receive numerous awards for his accomplishments in filmmaking, but Tai has stated that no medium has captured and retained his affections as strongly as drawing with a ballpoint pen.

Over the last two decades Tai has curated an audience of nearly 1 million followers combined on social media platforms and has original artwork collectors all across the worlde. For much of his career he has toured the globe with his wife and two children distributing his artwork at galleries and art fairs. For years Tai‘s artwork has maintained a prominent presence in cities like Chicago, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, and more.

In the early 2000s Tai founded Weird Chief Pictures,[1] a film and television production company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tai had been producing film and television for roughly 10 years before eventually putting his filmmaking career aside to focus on his artwork. During his film & TV production time his most notable credits include producing the Ultimate Combat Experience, 3.2 Percent and in 2008 he wrote, produced and directed his fourth and final feature film entitled Darkroom, with starring roles by Darren Dalton & David Stevens and a cameo role from Todd Bridges.

Between 2002 and 2008, under the moniker 'Weird Chief' Tai sold thousands of his original pop art paintings, which are paintings of pop icons, using stencils and spraypaint, of which it is estimated that he has sold over 5,000 original paintings across the globe, with at least one in each of the 50 U.S. states and countries such as Israel, Cyprus, Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Lithuania, the UK, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, South Africa, and New Zealand.[2] to collectors.[3] In 2009, combining urban and surreal styles, he transitioned from his pop art work to a pop surrealism style, experimenting with a mix of ballpoint pen, photography, spray paint, stencils, acrylics, marker inks, and watercolors, applied on plywood.

In 2010 Tai founded Submerged in Art,[4] an annual charity event gathering of Art and Music to benefit The Road Home homeless shelter.[5] In just its 3rd year, the 2012 Submerged in Art[6] charity event received a "Best Of"[7] award from Salt Lake City Weekly.

In 2017 Tai was invited to exhibit his solo show “thINK” at Gallery UnderTaci in Aarhus, Denmark, marking his first international solo exhibit.

In 2018 Tai was bestowed the honor of a “Matai” chief title, “Luamanuvae”, in his family's village in Savaii, Samoa.

In May 2019, Tai's animal revolt series “I Am Animal” was featured at the Moniker Art Fair in New York City through the Philadelphia gallery Analog Contemporary.

In 2019 & 2020 Tai's series “I Am Animal” had its France debut and was on exhibit for several months at all three of the SpaceJunk Art Center galleries in Lyon, Bayonne and Grenoble.

Just a month after the close of the Grenoble show the Covid-19 pandemic reached the U.S. and altered Tai's entire art career. At the hands of the pandemic, Tai's travel and show schedule was completely wiped out. He utilized the time off to finish a nearly 7-year total rehab project, turning an 1851 pre-civil war home into his own studio and gallery with rentable Airbnb loft in America's hometown Hannibal, Missouri.

The pandemic shutdowns forced closings of physical galleries that carry Tai's work across the world, prompting him to develop new ways to reach his collectors, including remote drawing classes for his audience which were called ‘Drink and Draw With Tai’. He also released a children's book, co-created with his wife, entitled “Beyond the Sea” and he developed a coffee table book featuring his drawings of tentacles, entitled “Book of Arms”.

In 2021 Tai launched a podcast and YouTube web series called DOD45 (Drawing Over Discussions) where he interviews special guests for 45 minutes while drawing a picture for them. Past guests include Sage Francis, Ceschi, Awol One, Doseone, Ron Allen, B. Dolan, Illogic, Carlos Condit, Moodie Black, Factor Chandelier, DJ Hoppa, Sole, Greg Lutzka, Blockhead, DJ Qbert, Prolyphic, Yoni Wolf, Mr. Dibbs & Slug of Atmosphere.


Early Art[edit]

Tai has told stories of being in elementary school and drawing pictures for his friends, selling them for a quarter or more.[3] His earlier works have traces of his own rebellion and self-determination, which he credits to growing up in Utah's skate-punk era, that he has said has influenced his urban style.

By 16 years old, Tai's artistic urban style extended to showcasing his creativity in public spaces not always in the most legal of circumstances.[8] As a juvenile, he was arrested for his graffiti and was encouraged by the arresting officer to compete in an anti-graffiti/anti-gang drawing competition, which he won and used part of his earnings from the competition to pay off the graffiti violation fines.[3]


Tai started with many different art mediums including tattoo, graffiti, web design, graphic, illustration, sculpture, oils, acrylics, music and film. In 2004, Tai was asked to help paint a 30 ft x 50 ft mural with American Pop Artist Jann Haworth, who is best known as the co-creator of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. The mural was an updated representation of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover and is titled SLC Pepper. This mural inspired Tai to seek new techniques, at which time he was introduced to stencil art. Tai spent the following years focused on his stencil work. In 2005 he painted a tryptic painting of Miles Davis, Erykah Badu and Billie Holiday, listed the piece on eBay, and in a short time the painting sold. Although still considered lowbrow, Pop art had become very popular in the early 2000s,[9] especially with the younger generation, and from 2005 to 2008 Tai used eBay to sell his paintings to collectors across the world.[2]


In 2008, Tai began showing his work at art festivals. His first festival was the 2008 Utah Arts Festival,[10] where he sold nearly 300 original 20"x30" pop art paintings. For the most part of 2008 and 2009 Tai only sold his work in the western United States, but in late 2009 Tai took his work across the entire country . As of 2009, Tai has been traveling across the country for nearly 8 months out of a year, selling his work to collectors.

Pop Art[edit]

Tai's pop art paintings were created with the use of spraypaint, stencils and masonite. The images were designed in photoshop, turning digital photos into multilayered images. The layers were printed out onto mylar paper and then handcut with an Exacto knife, resulting in multi-layered stencils. Each stencil layer was sprayed with a temporary adhesive, mounted on the masonite, then sprayed with aerosol spraypaint. Multiple layers were applied, completing the image. The backgrounds were painted with additional stencil use, freehand aerosol techniques and sometimes acrylic application with a brush.

Pop Surrealism Art[edit]

Tai's recent artworks are surreal creations of ballpoint pen drawings on Mylar film including further highlights, details and background colors created with the use of pencils, charcoals and a drizzle of watercolors. In the past, Tai's surreal drawings have also been created on watercolor paper, canvas and plywood. Tai has stated that he prefers hotel pens and was recently rewarded with a case of his own personal pens, provided by Bic.[11]

Art Festivals, Galleries and Awards[edit]

  • 2022 Art in the Pearl (OR)
2022 Best in Show Award
  • 2022 Art Fair in the Square (WI)
2022 Best in Show Award
  • 2021 Artigras (FL)
2021 1st Place Award
  • 2019 Uptown Art Fair (MN)
2019 Best of Show Award
  • 2019 Lake Wells Festival of the Arts (FL)
2019 Award of Distinction
  • 2017 Fort Worth Main Street Art Festival (TX)
2017 People's Choice Award
  • 2018 Uptown Art Fair (MN)
2018 Top 10% Award
  • 2018 Art Fair on the Square (WI)
2018 Invitational Award
  • 2017 Schlafly Art Outside (MO)
2017 3rd Place Award
  • 2017 Utah Art Festival (UT)
2017 Juror Award
  • 2017 Three Rivers Art Festival (PA)
2017 Juror Award
  • 2017 East Lansing Art Festival (MI)
2017 Honorary Award
  • 2016 East Lake View Festival of the Arts (IL)
2016 Best in Show Award
  • 2017 Fort Worth Main Street Art Festival (TX)
2017 Juror Award
  • 2016 Festival International (LA)
2016 3rd Place Best in Show Award
  • 2016 Kentuck Festival of the Arts (AL)
2016 Award of Merit
  • 2016 Winter Park Art Festival (FL)
2016 Award of Merit
  • 2013, 2014 Covington Three Rivers Art Festival (LA)
2014 Award of Distinction / 2014 Best Display Award
  • 2015 Columbus Art Festival (OH)
  • 2015 Tulsa Mayfest (OK)
  • 2015 Park City Kimball Art Festival (UT)
  • 2015 Baton Rouge Fest4All (LA)
2015 Award of Excellence
  • 2015 Brookside Art Annual (MO)
2015 Best of Show
  • 2015 St. Stephens Art Festival (FL)
  • 2014, 2015 Artisphere (SC)
2014 2nd Place Award
  • 2015 Old Island Days (FL)
  • 2014 Omaha Summer Art Festival (NE)
  • 2014, 2015 Mt. Dora Art Festival (FL)
  • 2014, 2015 Schlafly Art Outside (MO)
2014 Best of Show
  • 2014 San Francisco BodyArt Expo (CA)
  • 2014 Phoenix BodyArt Expo (AZ)
  • 2014 Sunfest (FL)
  • 2013, 2014, 2015 Festival International de Louisiane (LA)
  • 2013 57th Street Art Fair (IL)
  • 2013, 2014, Wells Street Art Festival (IL)
2013 1st Place Mixed Media / 2014 1st Place Mixed Media
2013 Invitational Award
  • 2013 Frenchman Street Art Market (LA)
  • 2013, 2014, 2015 Arts, Beats and Eats (MI)
  • 2013, 2014, 2015 Atlanta Dogwood Festival (GA)
  • 2013 Bayou City Arts Festival (TX)
  • 2013 Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (FL)
  • 2013 South Miami Rotary Art Festival (FL)
  • 2013, 2016 Coconut Grove Art Festival (FL)
  • 2012, 2013, 2015 Plaza Art Fair (MO)
2015 Award of Excellence
  • 2011 Artfest Boca (FL)[12]
1st Place Drawing Category
2014 Best of Show / 2015 Jury Award[13]
Best of Show[14]
  • 2011 Highland Fest (MN)[15]
Best of Show
  • 2010 Castle Rock Artfest (CO)[16]
1st Place Mixed Media
  • 2010, 2011, 2012 South Miami Arts Festival (FL)
2010 Best in Show, 1st Place Mixed Media / 2012 1st Place Mixed Media
  • 2010, 2011, 2012 Art in the Park Plantation (FL)
2010 1st Place Mixed Media / 2012 1st Place Mixed Media
  • 2010 Funky Ferndale (MI)
Award of Merit
  • 2012 Boise Art Museum Art in the Park (ID)
  • 2012, 2013 Artscape (MD)
  • 2012 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (PA)
  • 2012 Old Town Art Fair (IL)
  • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 River Arts Fest (TN)
  • 2011 Pierside Gallery (CA)
  • 2011 Delray Arts Festival (FL)
  • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Uptown Art Fair (MN)
2012 Award of Merit
  • 2011, 2013 Art in the Park Plymouth (MI)
  • 2011 Art in the Park Muskegon (MI)
  • 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Utah Arts Festival (UT)
  • 2010, 2014 Cherry Creek Arts Festival (CO)
  • 2008, 2009 Boulder Creek Festival (CO)
  • 2011 Palm Springs Arts Festival (CA)
  • 2009, 2010 Tempe Festival of the Arts (AZ)
  • 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 4th Avenue Street Fair (Spring & Winter) (AZ)
  • 2010, 2013 Milford Memories (MI)
  • 2010, 2011 Oak Alley Art Festival (LA)
  • 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 A Taste of Colorado (CO)
  • 2010 DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts (FL)
  • 2010 Space Coast Arts Festival (FL)
  • 2010 Gold Coast Art Fair (IL)
  • 2008 Avenue Street Fair (UT)
  • 2009 9th and 9th Fair (UT)
  • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Deep Ellum Art Festival (TX)
  • 2010 A Taste of Dallas (TX)
  • 2011, 2012 Denton Arts & Jazz Festival (TX)
  • 2010, 2011 Haight Ashbury Street Fair (CA)
  • 2011, 2012 Fiesta Hermosa (CA)
  • 2011 North Beach Festival (CA)
  • 2011 Union Street Festival (CA)
  • 2010 Girls Inc. Art Show (NM)
  • 2011 Wrigleyville Summerfest (IL)
  • 2011 Northside Summerfest (IL)
  • 2011, 2012 Bucktown Arts Festival (IL)
  • 2011, 2012 Old Pecan Street Festival (Spring & Fall) (TX)
  • 2011 Urban Arts Festival (UT)
  • 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Submerged in Art Charity Show[4] (UT)
  • 2011 Brand 32 Gallery (UT)
  • 2009, 2010 ByKali Gallery (UT)

Film & Video[edit]

Born to a middle-class family in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tai spent his childhood drawing and shooting short videos, and at 18 he went on to study film at the University of Utah, where he first made the transition to producing short films. After dropping out of college he went on to produce his first feature-length film Luck & Rat Poisoning[17] (1995), which was heavily influenced by Kevin Smith's Clerks. After Luck & Rat Poisoning's[18] theatrical release at Utah's historic Tower Theatre, which serves as a venue for the Sundance Film Festival, Tai produced and directed his second feature-length movie,[19] Hustlin' a Hustler[20] (1996), which he shot on hi-8 video, on what could be considered as a "used car" budget.

In 2001, Tai began production on his 3rd feature-length picture, but his first on celluloid (his earliest works were shot on video).[21] Shot on Super 16mm, Twice Today, starring Don Shanks, was invited to the AngelCiti Film Festival[22] in Los Angeles, California where it had its premier at Paramount Studios. In July 2002, Twice Today was also invited to the Real to Reel Film Festival in Shelby, North Carolina, where it won the award for Best Amateur Feature Film.

After Twice Today, Tai transitioned into television. From 2003 to 2006 Tai was hired to edit the Ultimate Combat Experience, a weekly television series featuring tournaments of kickboxing and no holds barred fighting, credited as being the first MMA show of its kind on network television anywhere in the world. After editing several episodes of UCE, Tai was promoted to a producer, where he produced and edited 52 episodes over a 5-season period.

In 2006, after leaving the Ultimate Combat Experience, Tai produced and edited commercials and promotional material for Ultimate Fighting Championship's two-time light heavy weight champion Randy Couture and Matt Lindland's training camp Team Quest and MMA event, Sportfight.

From 2004 to 2006, Tai also worked on his weekly television series called 3.2 Percent, which highlighted the nightlife, music, sports, culture and lifestyle in Utah. In corroboration with early Spy Hop Production personnel, Tai produced an 11-episode season in 2006.

Citing unsustainable financial conditions, Tai cancelled the 3.2 Percent television series, after just one season. In December 2005, Tai returned to filmmaking and was hired to produce and direct a short film for the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival, with specific guidelines. It had to be shot in 24 hours, with a budget of $99 and a running time of 3 minutes. The finished short was titled Waiting,[23] starring David H. Stevens[24] of Punch Drunk Love and after its premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, it was invited to screen at the 2006 Real to Reel Film Festival[25] and the 2006 Arizona International Film Festival.[26]

Following the Slamdance premiere of Waiting, Tai adapted the short story into a feature-length film. Two years later, Tai began production on Darkroom.[27] Tai's fourth feature-length film, Darkroom,[28] stars David Stevens, Darren Dalton and Todd Bridges. In 2008, Darkroom[29] made its way through the film festival circuit, screening at the 2008 Big Muddy Film Festival,[30] IL, Okanagan Film Festival, Canada, Big Island Film Festival, HI, Bare Bones Film Festival,[31] OK, and the Dances With Films Festival,[32] CA. In 2011, Darkroom[33] was picked up by Vanguard Cinema[34] for DVD distribution.

From 2011 to 2012 Tai edited commercials, promo videos and Episode 1 for Showdown Fights,[35] which aired on Fox Sports Net in 2012 and is an MMA event in Orem, Utah that has featured and features professional and amateur fighters from across the country, including UFC contenders and popular up-and-comers such as Josh Burkman, Jeremy Horn, Junie Browning, Court McGee, Jordan Smith and Steven Siler.


  • Showdown Fights - Episode 1 on Fox Sports Net (television) - 2012
  • Darkroom[28] (feature) - 2007
  • Waiting[23] (short) - 2006
  • 3.2 Percent (television)
(episodes 1 to 11) - 2004/2005
  • Ku Klux Klan - How they promote Racial Inequality (short) - 2004
  • SportFight Intro (commercial) - 2004
  • U92 Video Countdown (pilot) - 2004
  • Truth or Dare (pilot) - 2004
  • Fresh Start Ministry (pilot) - 2004
  • Water in the Desert (short) - 2004
  • No News is Good News (short) - 2004
  • Ultimate Combat Experience (television)
(episode 9 to 52) - 2000/2004
  • All I've Got (2004 Olympic promo video) - 2002
  • Twice Today (feature) - 2000
  • Hustlin' a Hustler (feature) - 1998
  • Luck & Rat Poisoning (feature) - 1996

Weird Chief Pictures[edit]

Weird Chief Pictures was founded by Tai Taeoalii in 1996. It was an independent film production company that had also expanded into all aspects of media, entertainment and the arts.[36] As of 2013, Tai has suspended all of Weird Chief Pictures' business dealings, citing his need to focus on his recent artistic endeavors, of which he operates business now as 'Art by Tai'.

Submerged in Art[edit]

The annual Submerged in Art[4] charity event is a gathering of Art & Music to benefit The Road Home homeless shelter. A gathering of music and art which features over 15 artists exhibiting and selling their paintings, sculptures and prints alongside DJ's, spoken word, live music performances, raffle prizes and silent auction items donated by over 30 LocalFirst Utah businesses. In 2012 Submerged in Art was honored with a 'Best of Utah' Award by City Weekly.[37]


  1. ^ "Weird Chief Pictures". Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Salt Lake City Blogs:Gavin's Underground-Submerged In Art". March 4, 2011. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Meet Iosua Tai Taeoalii with Weird Chief Pictures | The What It Do » Urban Island Review". The What It Do. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Submerged in Art". Submerged in Art. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  5. ^ "The Road Home". The Road Home. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  6. ^ "Submerged in Art Slug Magazine Review". Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  7. ^ "Moniker Art Fair Brings Frieze Weekend to Noho". May 3, 2019.
  8. ^ , The Source Interview.
  9. ^ "Pop Art artists". Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  10. ^ "Utah Arts Festival - Artist Marketplace - 2010 - 2-D Mixed Media - Iosua Taeoalii & Adrienne Taeoalii". Retrieved February 7, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ I AM SELFLESS Archived February 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Tai Interview.
  12. ^ "November 19–20 | Mizner Park". Art Fest Boca. Archived from the original on November 18, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  13. ^ "Red River Revel". Red River Revel. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  14. ^ "Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair names award winners". July 21, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  15. ^ "Art Fair". Highlandfest. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "Castle Rock Art Fest". Castle Rock Art Fest. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  17. ^ "Film & Video Gallery". Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  18. ^ Vice, Jeff (January 9, 1998). "Women at war, teens are topics of 2 Utah films". Deseret News. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  19. ^ Vice, Jeff (October 16, 1998). "Screenings to feature festival entries, Utahn's film". Deseret News. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  20. ^ "Film & Video Gallery". Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  21. ^ "Fund-raiser for 'Twice Today'". Deseret News. January 12, 2001. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  22. ^ "AngelCiti Film Festival (2001-2)". IMDb. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Waiting (2006) - IMDb
  24. ^ David Stevens - IMDb
  25. ^[bare URL PDF]
  26. ^ "Arizona International Film Festival". Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 10, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ a b Darkroom (2008) - IMDb
  29. ^ "The Darkroom - - Salt Lake City, Utah News". February 20, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  30. ^ "Big Muddy Film Festival". Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Dances With Films Archives | Features C-D". Archived from the original on July 31, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  33. ^ "Darkroom". Archived from the original on January 13, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  34. ^ "Quality Independent Cinema". Vanguard Cinema. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  35. ^ "Home".
  36. ^ "Syndicated News NET". July 15, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  37. ^ 2012 Best of Utah, Salt Lake City Weekly.