Uniquely cool. Shop our new patterned styles.

Episode 28
Artist Tom Orr

  • 1 min read

Episode Description

0:55 - A discussion with Texas-based artist Tom Orr about his artistic journey. Orr is an artist whose large-scale sculptures have been widely collected in the U.S. and Japan, and who is a frequent collaborator with Episode 23 guest Frances Bagley, who happens to be his wife.

74:11 - The week's top art headlines.


Craig: [00:00:10] This is Art Sense, a podcast focus on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with Texas based artist Tom Orr about his artistic journey. Orr is an artist whose large scale sculptures have been widely collected in the U.S. and Japan, and who is a frequent collaborator with episode twenty three guest Frances Bagley, who happens to be his wife at the end of the episode. I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, the path of an artist with Tom Orr.

Craig: [00:00:54] Hey, Tom, I appreciate you sitting down with me. Did you grow up in Texas?

Tom: [00:00:59] I grew up in Dallas, Texas, as a matter of fact, and Dallas and Lubbock and Garland.

Craig: [00:01:05] Ok.

Tom: [00:01:06] You know, it was Oak Cliff, Lubbock and Garland. 

Show More >
Craig: [00:01:10] Right

Tom: [00:01:10] Which I like to say are the three hot spots of Texas, you know, back then.

Craig: [00:01:14] Some are hotter than others.

Tom: [00:01:15] That's true. That's true. Yeah. Born and raised in Dallas. Right? Yeah, I got to tell you but

Craig: [00:01:21] So did did you grow up in an artistic home or like,

Tom: [00:01:26] Oh, not really. You know,my dad was work for a Mayflower warehouses, which is his father's company, and my mom was sort of a housewife is in the fifties. So she did do this painting of photographs he photographs, which a lot of women did back then.

Craig: [00:01:47] Yeah.

Tom: [00:01:50] Again, there weren't any like producing artists or practicing artists in my household. One thing that my mom made, it always took us to the museum and my brother wouldn't go, but she would always take me to the museum, right? And she made a big point of that. So it was always stressed that art was important, you know, right? And it wasn't, you know, sometimes I hate to even talk about these things, but it's like, you know, being raised a male in Texas, you know, you got this, "By God you got to be a football player and that" which is good. Don't get me wrong. Sports are fine, right? But sometimes that emphasis is a lot more than, you know. You should also go to a museum, you should do these things. And they both my parents made that kind of important things in our lives. You know, my brother and me. So so

Craig: [00:02:37] What museums would you been going to back then?

Tom: [00:02:39] Well, at the time since this was fifties in Dallas, it was the Dallas Museum, the one at Fair Park, right? Which Fair park? Yeah, that's where it was. Yeah. And that's where we go, you know, and there's. As a matter of fact, in the first grade, You know, you have school day at the state fair and we went to the state fair and the teacher said, Ok, we get back to school and everybody draws something they saw at the fair. So we had gone. They took us through the museum because they were doing this Indian sand painting or something. And also, there was a god. I can't remember his name now. Oh, one of those painters that did stripe paintings, I forget. I think of it. I'll think of it a minute. Yeah, that's right. But that's not his family. That's great to see stripes, you know? And so we get back to school and people are drawing big texts in the midway and write their first great version of that anyway. And I thought, Oh, I want to draw that, make a copy of that painting. So I did these stripes, you know, on a page. And the teacher says, Tom, what is this, you know, right? And I said, Well, it's what I saw at the fair. And she goes, No, no, no, no. Just, you know, she didn't tear it up, but she said, No, you got to dress up, you know? So this painting in the museum, this is what I want to do. She said, Well, no, we need something you really start to figure like Big Tex or whatever. So it's like, I like to say this is my first bad critique of a piece of work.

Craig: [00:04:07] Yeah, but you know, it's so funny. I have a comment. I'll sit here and have a conversation with someone and you know, they'll tell a story like that and like, I'm looking over their shoulder at these prints that you've done that are stripes, right?

Tom: [00:04:20] Right, right.

Craig: [00:04:21] Sometimes you can't run away from these things that make an impression on this.

Tom: [00:04:25] I've got things I'm doing right now that I remember seeing when I was six or seven years old. I mean, it just it stays with you constantly and you you can act on them, or you can just think about them, or you can turn them into your work, you know, and I've not just stripes, but that's something you just saw there, I guess. But yeah, when another thing is when I was a kid, my brother and I shared a bedroom and everybody had Venetian blinds back then. So you know, you got these horizontal stripes on your windows. And if you turn them a little bit, you'll get these beautiful lines of light, you know, on the ceiling. Well, our next door neighbor back in the fifties, repaired TV sets and TV was just a new thing, and he had a color TV set, which is even newer. No one had him, so he'd be tinkering with this stuff in his shop at night. And of course, we had to go to bed at 8:00 or 9:00 or whatever, and I can remember being in the bed looking at these beautiful colored stripes on the ceiling that you know, did this and this, according to head hit the room changing colors. I thought that is the greatest looking thing, you know, and that's still stays with me to this day. The second thing I remember looking at was the Venetian blinds with the the cord hanging in front of it, which made that more a pattern made that dotted line. And I thought that, you know, I'd bat the thing and you'd see this dotted line change. And that's something I'm using all the time now, but it's something I saw when I was very. Very young. And of course, they need to think it's kind of cool and different looking, why is that happening, right? But then when you get older and you think maybe I could make this and make it do something that's know different than just a natural thing that happens, you know? And a lot of people have done it. I'm not the only one that's, you know. But those things are very important to me, and I still use them all the time.

Craig: [00:06:18] But you're open to inspiration. I mean.

Tom: [00:06:20] Oh, yeah.

Craig: [00:06:21] Yeah, you were. So it sounds like you're at least a really visual kid. Like, you know, things as visual things made a big impact on you it sounds like. 

Tom: [00:06:30] They did. And I always go back to my brother because my I always wondered why my brother he is. I mean, he's everybody's visual. I mean, he sees things, but he chose to go another route. And I'm always curious about that because he did show me some things when I was young. Visual things that are very, very important. And he didn't choose to act on those for some reason. I mean, he's a wonderful guy is great life. You know, he just I went one way, he went the other, and it's not like we split up. It's right. It's an it's a good question. I don't know why that happened, you know? Well, my brother showed me as a young kid. He said, If you if you draw a box and then you draw another box and you overlap them and then connect the lines, you get this three dimensional cube.God.And it is brilliant, you know? Right. And so then he also showed me, you could you could take that and do and you can make like a 3D drawing and put a roof on it, be like a barn or something. And I was like, flabbergasted by that. Anyway, I'll tell you one more story. But. 

[00:07:35] No, this is awesome. We're here for stories

[00:07:37] OK this is in the again, the first grade. This same teacher that didn't like my stripe drawing from the fair. We're drawing barnyard scenes one day and I thought, I know what I'm going to do. I want to make one of those barns. My brother showed me how to do so. I do it and made the roof and Jesus and put like a window in it. And right did that like the same way, like three to minute. And so the teacher comes by and goes, Oh my God, she said, this is fantastic, she said, How did you learn to say, Hey, you know, I just figured it out, you know? And she said, You take this down there right now and go that fifth grade art teacher's room and show her this drawing, you know? And I said, OK, you know, and I thought, Shit, man, that's where, you know, that's the fifth graders in that room. I don't know if I want to go in there, and I was a little embarrassed to do this, you know? So I went and stood in the bathroom for like 30 minutes with my drawing and I thought, I can't go in there, you know, it's just like my brother may be in there and all this stuff and I just, you know, kind of shy. And so I go back to the teacher and she said, What'd she say? And I said "She liked it," and I said, What do you do? You know, kids, Jesus.

Craig: [00:08:48] I mean, that's one of those moments. I mean, you still remember where someone says I'm good at something and all of a sudden like been branded on your identity, right?

Tom: [00:08:59] Yeah. And that might that might have been the first sign right there point or indication that I had that something was going on with me that other people maybe didn't have or whatever. And so, yeah, at that point, I could always draw. I could fairly realistically, even young. And then I also like to make things. So that was you tie those together and I, you know, again, being raised in Texas, as is a guy, you got all these other artists. I played a lot of sports and stuff, but that was something I always. This is odd to say. I always kind of knew that's what I would be because I found it. I found it a lot more interesting than anything else that was offered out there. Like, Right? Don't you want to be a scientist? Well, yeah, but not really, you know? So, yeah, I think that that kind of got it going. And, you know, and it's being raised in a different generation and actually being, you know, in high school in the sixties. And, you know, things were changing like so quick and stuff. It was an interesting time to want to be an artist, you know? Mm hmm. And I think a lot of things, even though it's like today, I think there's a lot of things young artists get that we wouldn't possibly ever get, but we were offered a lot more things than the previous generation, you know, so it was a good time to to get going. And as an artist, you know.

Craig: [00:10:30] So did you go straight to art school out of?

Tom: [00:10:33] No, no, no, no. I graduated.

Craig: [00:10:34] What was the path like?

Tom: [00:10:36] No, this is cool. You like this. Garland High School, right? I mean, I swear to God. All I want to do was get out of Texas, man. I just and it was '68 and you know, everything was a lot of fun.

Craig: [00:10:50] Yeah. And and the world. He was on fire.

Tom: [00:10:53] World was on fire and I was draft age, and, you know, I knew I didn't want to go to Vietnam and so everybody was going to college for deferments and all that stuff, so. And I didn't know what the hell I wanted to do. My brother went to tech. I knew I didn't want to do that and do a fraternity thing. I had no interest in any of that stuff, so I thought, Well, they got this new thing. El Centro, these junior colleges, man, you know, try that. It's Dallas, and my folks had a rent house in Oak Cliff that I could use, you know? So sure. So I went to El Centro, and that was another good thing that happened to me because at El Centro, I met three or four instructors there who, you know, were fairly new instructors at the time. Robin Koch, you might know one of them. 

Craig: [00:11:37] Yeah

Tom: [00:11:37] Remember Robin?

Craig: [00:11:38] Yeah, I do.

Tom: [00:11:39] He was there and he was one of my main inspirations. He was the nicest journalist he is. He's a journalist, guy, wonderful artist. And he did some artwork at the time that was very, very popular. And he used a kind of plexiglas milk plex with color pushed up against it where you just got a glimmer of this color behind something else. So these very subtle changes, light changes and things. And I thought, God, that is great, you know? And I never really wanted to copy what he was doing, but I always thought, I want my work to have that feel, you know, something that's it's there, but it's not there. It's something that you probably wouldn't notice, but you really should notice it because it's more important than anything else around it, you know? Anyway, he was a big inspiration. Plus, he went to Rhode Island School of Design. And he said to me one day and at the and I took like I took a lot of life drawing all kinds of design classes, everything, you know? But he said, you know, do you ever think about leaving Texas? I said, Oh man, all the time he goes, We'll think about going to art school said, Yep, yep. And so he said, Well, you ought to try RISD. And I said, OK, you know, give it a shot. So I looked at a lot of places and he kind of he actually administered the test. They give you a test and he administered it to me in the library there at El Centro. And sure enough, I got in and it was Kansas City and I want to say Pratt - one place in New York, I didn't get in, but I did get in Kansas City and RISD but let's go to RISD. And back then, RISD was RISD. It wasn't like it's kind of a big deal, I think nowadays, but I got in there and I thought that'd be better than Kansas City, you know? And so it was that was I was glad I did that. But El Centro is the place I went first and I met a lot of good instructors there. And at that point, I realized, even though I have, I'm getting this background and drawing and and laugh drawing and design and all that whole fine arts thing may be real important here. You know at the tail end of my time at El Centro, I got a job working for the Janie C. Lee Gallery in Dallas. Do you know about Janie C. Lee Gallery?

Craig: [00:13:59] I'm not sure I do.

[00:14:00] It opened in. I think it opened in '68, I think '68. It was open to like seventy four or maybe no till seventy six or something like that, maybe seventy eight, but you only showed blue chip artists from New York and L.A. and it was an amazing thing for Dallas because, you know, she was selling artwork, but she was also bringing these people down that some of the collectors didn't know much about around because it was. It was kind of a new thing then, and I got to work with Lynda Benglis, and I'm sure you don't remember Alan Shields, but man, he was a big thing back then. Larry Bell and Dan Flavin was supposed to do a show there, and he canceled at the last minute because Janie was going to get married. And that fell apart. But anyway, it was. That was very important for me too, because I got to deal with, like, real important artist as their kind of gallery helper for two weeks or whatever. And sure, you're the guy that got to pick them up at the airport, pick 'em up the airport, drive around, do all kinds of stuff with them. And I'd say there was only like one incident the whole time where someone was a real jerk. You know, I won't name the artist, but everybody else was fantastic, and I still talk to Lynda Benglis. You know, it's great. You know, it's that was wonderful for me before I went to art school, because then I go to art school and, you know,there it's like, everybody is an artist. I mean, you know, they think they're an artist anyway, right? And I'd actually had this little bit of contact with like real people who were important at the time and still are. And it kind of grounded me a little bit I didn't like say, "I'm going to be a fantastic," you know, that kind of stuff. I just said, you know, this is something I could do, you know, right?

Craig: [00:15:44] And so you had some context.

Tom: [00:15:48] Yeah, exactly. And and I knew they were regular people even. They were superstars. They were just, you know, they still ate lunch, you know, and they sit around. Right? Yeah, it was. It was very good. And Robin helped me get no. George Green, who was another artist around that time instructor. He's the one that helped me get the job with Jamie S. We sure look her up something. It was a very important gallery for Dallas at the time, you know?

Craig: [00:16:14] Yeah. And uh,so was the El Centro where it is now back then? 

Tom: [00:16:20] Downtown. Yeah, yeah. Which is also cool because I lived in Oak Cliff and I'd go to El Centro and back then downtown Dallas. It's kind of cool because they had bars and thrift shops and stuff right downtown.

Craig: [00:16:31] So you go to RISD. Mm hmm. You know, it's funny. I read an article recently where they are trying to monetize the value of art educations, right?

Tom: [00:16:42] Yeah. 

Craig: [00:16:42] And they were trying to figure out, is an MFA worth it? And they were saying, Well, you get an MFA at one of these two or three programs, you'll probably have a chance of making your money back. But it kind of drops off. Sure. But they were saying that the BFA from RISD was as valuable as an MFA from some of the big programs in terms of like who's come out of the BFA programs at RISD and what they've been able to do with that.

Tom: [00:17:14] That's really interesting because that's something Frances and I talk about a lot because I don't have an MFA. I got a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. And you know, you're expected to go get an MFA. And I just I didn't, you know? And in some ways, I think it might have been a little bit of a problem for me because of when I did go to RISD. And, you know, but it was good that I mean, I took so many things at RISD that I probably wouldn't have taken if I just had been doing it on my own or something. It was structured the studio space was for. It was horrible. I mean, it was a sculpture studio. There was none. I mean, it's nothing, you know, I think that's changed now. But so we all got places off campus right where we'd have a studio.

Craig: [00:18:04] So did they did they try to make you an illustrator there?

Tom: [00:18:06] Oh, God, no, no. But I did, and I transferred. And this is interesting. A lot of my stuff transferred from El Centro. I think I did take English and some of some other stuff, a couple of art history classes, I think

Craig: [00:18:20] Right. 

Tom: [00:18:20] It received, but that was it. And then it was all studio stuff in. And so you go to this pretty crazy deal called it's like a summer session where all the transfer students. Uh-huh. Go. Spend the summer in the dorm at RISD, which is, you know, it's like and some of these people had never been out of their hometown. And it was like this really weird assortment of people who were the best artists right from their schools. Now they're in RISD, and they're all put them in this room for six weeks.

Craig: [00:18:48] So it was like Lord of the Flies.

Tom: [00:18:49] It was. It was a mess, man, and people were freaking out every day and, "I don't have to draw, I've never drawn in my life" and that kind of shit, you know?

Craig: [00:18:57] Right. 

Tom: [00:18:58] It was. And some of those people that I met at summer say, I'm still friends with, so it was cool.

Craig: [00:19:03] It's really interesting because, you know, I've heard similar stories about high achieving kids going to places like MIT. Yeah. And you know, everyone that goes to MIT was a valedictorian.

Tom: [00:19:15] Sure.

Craig: [00:19:16] You know, you leave home, you know, I've got the biggest brain. This is who I am and they get up there and like, you're just another guy. A lot of them struggle with not being, you know, oh yeah, not being the head of the class.

Tom: [00:19:29] A lot of people that went through that summer session and couldn't and had so much trouble with that. They didn't they didn't go back. They just couldn't do it or they flunked out or whatever. Some people who were the best in their class and I thought I probably was it worked just the opposite. It made me even more determined to be around these other people who were like the best people they thought, and you kind of think, Yeah, but you know, I can do this too. And I had a good. It made me more determined than ever to be among those people, the other transfer students, you know? And then some people who came in and wouldn't, you know, I remember this one woman who was just God, she was just painfully shy. And, you know, she could draw everything and could not wrap your head around any kind of kind of conceptual ideas. We even had like this conceptual kind of class yet. Mm hmm. And I thought, Oh, poor thing, you know? And then God, she did great, man. She went on and did all these things. And she's a wonderful painter now. I mean, it's just it's awesome. It made her do the same thing that happened to me. She just said, Oh, this is great, you know? It was a good deal. Art school for me, was a very good thing. And, you know, getting out of Texas and moving someplace GD Rhode Island Jesus, you know? So very small, you know?

Craig: [00:20:54] Right.

[00:20:55] I had a lot of good friends and they have this thing called Winter Session, which I think they might have it at most schools, I don't know. Right. But I always took photography because they had Harry Callahan taught there, right? Aaron Siskind taught there. And so you take these winter session classes, which these with these guys who are, like, hugely famous. And yeah, of course they were, you know, they were older and they were they they'd had a long teaching career and a wonderful photography careers, and they were just there to like, sort of like, we're doing talk to people and show people how to do things. And this is all the way before digital and right. But man, that was that was great. And I used to go to this one bar in Providence, which was like really rough, and a few other guys would go there or whatever man's bar. No women allowed. That was bizarre. But Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind both used to go in there in the mornings and drink coffee and shoot. I think I think Aaron Siskind, one of them, would shoot pool or something. But you know, it's just this kind of regular guys, you know, it's just the greatest that was so cool. Yeah. Paul Krot, who's dead, he was another one that was really big in the photography department anyway. That was a wonderful thing about RISD, and I got a hell of a lot out of it. I probably could have taken more, you know, kind of like instructional kind of classes and learned a little more. But I kind of had this vision of things like the more conceptual kind of work was kind of what I was thinking about. And so for my senior show at RISD, which they would give you as a senior sculpture student, everybody got to have a senior show is great. And because you'd have to be like four people, but they have this the woods Gary Mansion was the place you have it. It was a mansion up on the hill, right? But the downstairs was all these rooms you could have exhibitions in. And so my entire senior show was all made of shadows and scrim with spray painted lines on it and a piece of floating plate glass that had like a kind of a structure underneath that she couldn't see. It was three pieces I thought, it's brilliant and the fact the my critiques were good, but I mean, you know, still, even though it was RISD, this kind of stuff was like, I mean, people still want to RISD at that point to learn how to carve wooden things and which nothing against that. But right. I remember being a little shocked when I got there because I thought, Man, everybody's going to be into like conceptual things and, you know, real experimental work. And man, I got there and it was a lot of traditional things going on. Again, there's nothing wrong with that in a school, but I was expecting something a little different. And so what I basically did my whole time there was like, like I told you earlier, we got a loft down on Pine Street, this painter, friend and I, and we just had a great big studio where we'd invite people over to look at these installations and things that we'd done, you know? Right. So we did it kind of a different way. Even though we're at RISD, we would sort of go there and take our classes and stuff. But we did a lot of stuff out of RISD because of the studio space, you know.

Craig: [00:24:02] Got it. Got it. So, so when you finished up, were you drawn to New York or?

Tom: [00:24:08] Boy, that's a sad story. That's sad, but you know, yeah, that was what you did.

Craig: [00:24:14] I mean, you know, it's how it typically works, right? I mean, you go, you go to school. There's a critical mass of classmates that are saying, "we're going like, Hey, we can split the rent on an apartment eight ways."

Tom: [00:24:25] Yeah. And that was man, that was it. This is nineteen seventy three two. So you could go and five of four people lease a place downtown and you could do it. I mean, it was it was expensive, but it wasn't unreal. Mm hmm. And so sure, there was three or four of us that were going to do that and we had it planned. And I said, Well, you know what I'm going to do, I'm going to go back to Texas for the summer and get some money saved and then I'm going to come back. Well, shit, that never happened, you know? I mean, I'd get down to Texas and, you know, get with my old friends and stuff and try to do artwork. And it's not working. And it's just, you know, pulling my hair out. And then I realize, Christ, I'm never going to be able to get back up there. And of course, after six months, everybody's starting to do other stuff. Plus, I only had a BFA, so a lot of my buddies were had gone off to grad school and stuff. So it's like, "Shit, what do I do now?" And so I actually continued to do artwork sort of on my own and one room of my house and, you know, pretty miserable. And finally, I thought, this is not working. So some friends I went to high school with said, "Hey, we got the construction business down to Austin. Let's all move to Austin and build houses." I thought, why not? And at the time, they're paying good money, and that was a real strong and, you know, tough guy back then. So we all moved down to Austin built houses for a year and. And I got to tell you, it was great because I, you know, I could always make stuff. but I kind of figured I'm actually really building things. I mean, we went out and built like these three storey houses, you know, by the lake and it was like, Christ, this is, this is great, you know, because as a sculptor, you know, I'd never built anything like that, right? And then the greatest thing too is, you know, when you when you frame a house, we were framers, you know, you frame a house. There's one point where there's nothing on there, but there's no siding or anything. So you got this beautiful skeleton with all these shadows. But I remember telling the guy I worked with, I said, Man, if you could just leave part of the house like this, this would be fantastic, wouldn't it? And he goes, "You're absolutely nuts, man. What's wrong with you?" And then I realized, OK, I'm an artist working with these carpenters, so there's got to be a different thing going on here. You know, I guess I left something out of this one part of this that getting out of RISD and moving back to Texas and not really knowing what to do. Another instructor of mine said, You know, you might want to apply this to you, to grad school. You ever think about going to grad school? And again, I was kind of going, "What am I doing?" You know?

Craig: [00:27:10] Mm hmm.

Tom: [00:27:11] And I thought, Well, not really, but why not? And he said, We'll do this, do this. So I put in I applied for grad school SMU, and at the last minute, some things happen and I kind of got crossways with someone at SMU and I thought, You know, I don't want to teach. I don't especially want to be in academia for another two years or whatever. What in the hell are you doing, man? You're going to if you get in, you're going to be taking up a space where you know someone who wants to teach or go on to. It's their space, you know?

Craig: [00:27:44] Right.

Speaker4: [00:27:44] So I wrote a letter. I've, you know, I wrote a letter and mailed it because there was no, you know, Instagram or anything like that. And that very afternoon this undergraduate called me and says, "Hey, Tom," I said, "Yeah." He said, "you know, they're showing the graduate slides of people who applied and they just said, you got into grad school" and I went, "Oh shit." And it was like, Remember that show? I Love Lucy where she was, Oh my God, like running to the post office to get something. So that was it. So, so actually, I got accepted and then I said, Please withdraw my name. I was accepted and withdrew at the same moment, so I didn't go, which was good for me at the time and went down and built houses and then came back and thought, What am I doing?

[00:28:36] Right. 

[00:28:37] I did it for a year and I came back. I went, Oh my God, you know, I'm with these carpenters all the time and they're always talking about sports, and I don't know anything about

Craig: [00:28:44] At that point. Did you think, Hey, I've got enough money from building houses that maybe now I should go to New York? Or you're like,

Tom: [00:28:51] That would have been that would have been a smart thing to do. But I thought, you know, I've got some money. And Austin's not working out for me and I really need to do some artwork again. So I thought and I was drawing and doing all kinds of stuff, but you know, it's nothing was happening. And so I thought, Well, I can always go back to Dallas and my folks have this rent house I can live in, which I did. And you know that that sort of worked out. And then it did work out to the point that I met some local artists in Dallas who I hadn't known at El Centro, some different people. And, you know, some things were going on and everybody hung out at the Stoneleigh P, the old Stoneleigh P before it burned it or Knox Street Pub. And so there was a group of artists that hung around bars and and we're doing legitimate work and photographers and things that there was a community going and I thought, this is pretty cool. And so the whole thing about grad school kind of went this way and moving to New York would have been great at the time. But I thought, you know, let me do this and again, maybe putting it off or something,

Craig: [00:29:54] Right

Tom: [00:29:54] And you know, we I stayed here and tried to get in shows and stuff, and then a few of us got together and said, Let's open an alternative space and we opened 500 X, It was actually called 500 Gallery or something back then. So we started that. We built it and started that as a gallery alternative space where you could do anything you wanted, you know? Right? And when we opened it at the time, we were sort of like, the what's the politically correct way to put this? We were kind of the odd one out or whatever it was like, you know, it's not really a gallery, you know, everybody pays dues. So they're sort of like paying their dues and then they're putting their own artwork up. So, you know, it's kind of like this vanity thing, you know, and might have been. But what else? There's no other place to show your work. There weren't galleries in Dallas snooping around trying to find you. There was like 500X there was. I can't even name the Courtney Sale. Maybe it was still open then. Janie was gone. They weren't really that many commercial galleries around. DW Co-op was the other one, you know, which was a co-op, so it wasn't really a commercial. I mean, it was it became a commercial gallery, I guess. But I just did it because I was dying to do bigger sort of installation kind of work or very minimal kind of things and doing like stuff I've been experimenting with in a room to do it there. You know, take that whole downstairs area and do something with it, that pit area. And it was like, God, it was great, you know, and you could do whatever you wanted. I mean, you can make a total fool of yourself if you wanted to. You know, I didn't especially want to do that, but I mean, you could. And that was it was all right, you know? Right? Not that they tried to have foolish things, but you know, you could go there and fail, basically. And it was if you fail, you know, maybe you learn something from it. You know, it wasn't like, Oh, I'm not going to be able to sell anything. And the whole selling artwork to me had nothing to do with anything at that point in my career. You know, it's like just just make these things happen, you know?

Craig: [00:32:01] Were you able to do art full time at that point or did you have a straight gig?

Tom: [00:32:05] Oh God, No, no, no. God, I was I. Oh shit no. My father and uncle had a thing called Orr-Reed Wrecking Company, which was always there, and they wrecked houses and they took all the materials and had a wonderful salvage yard. And I could always work there. They paid absolutely nothing, you know. 

Craig: [00:32:26] Would they give you a deal on materials?

Tom: [00:32:28] Oh yeah, yeah.

Craig: [00:32:29] Five finger discount.

Tom: [00:32:31] Well, it was sort of like, I need to take this home with me to do. Ok, sure. Go ahead.

Craig: [00:32:35] Right

Tom: [00:32:35] But you know, I couldn't make a living working there because it just, you know, it was they didn't pay enough and they wouldn't they couldn't pay me anymore because I was part of the family. That was their rule. So I'd always worked for them. Or I'd take a carpentry job, you know? And then I also had a job as a caterer to make ends meet. It was, you know, and again, it wasn't like I was trying to make money off my artwork because I thought that was pointless. Who's going to buy some scrim with lines painted on it? I mean, you had to be logical about it back then. Maybe they still won't buy that, but I mean, that's what I wanted to do. So to do that. I work two to three jobs, which, right, I wasn't the only one. A lot of other people did, too.

Craig: [00:33:17] So when did things change?

Tom: [00:33:19] You ready for all this?

Speaker2: [00:33:21] I've got time.

[00:33:23] Ok. That was 500, and that was a great thing for me. You know, of course, there's a young guy. I want things to happen a little faster. So what the hell is going on? What am I going to do? Well, so this isn't working. So a friend of mine, we opened a restaurant in Georgia, so I left Dallas at that point, boom and moved to Georgia to open.

Craig: [00:33:42] There was an unexpected turn in the story. I wasn't.

Tom: [00:33:45] It'll go quickly from here.

Craig: [00:33:47] You know, you know, your wife's story had an unexpected turn to Georgia and then. 

Tom: [00:33:52] Well, that's interesting. Yeah. So this is a this is a painter in Dallas. His ex-wife and I had a relationship for a while, and she, her brother, bankrolled this restaurant in St. Simons Island, Georgia. I had worked for a caterer so I could cook. And so she said, Come on, we'll do this, you know? And so we went to Georgia for three years and left what career I had in Dallas as, you know, small as it was. 

Craig: [00:34:19] Right. 

Tom: [00:34:19] Left that and said go to Georgia. So I went to Georgia and did it for three years and it just, just...the restaurant business is not for me. I mean, it's like the most grueling work you can imagine no time to even think about artwork. So it was like after two years, I said, "Hell, with this, I can't I cannot do this because I can't even think about art," you know? And the restaurant was a success. I mean, it was going over pretty good and then the relationship fell apart and I thought, Oh God, what am I doing? And so I moved back to Dallas thinking, OK, I'll just start my career right back up where I left off. Well, that's a joke. I get back to Dallas and I see the few people I know and I said, What's going on? All this stuff was happening. I'm going to great, you know? And so I went to a person I sort of knew the director of DW Co-op, and she was at some other gallery then and I said, "Hey, how you doing?" She goes, "Oh, hi." And she didn't remember me from Adam, and I said, Well, I'm back, and I just seen what's going on, and I said, I'm Tom Moore. She goes, OK, great. Well, you know. And so immediately I realized, you've left this whatever you had three years ago. Now you're back, you're going to have to totally start over, you know? And I went, Oh my God. Ok, so that's that's when it really got going for me, because then I realized I have to, have to start over. So I had to get like a job that paid enough money where I didn't have to work three jobs and do all this stuff. So I started working for a display company as a carpenter.

Craig: [00:35:49] Mm hmm.

Tom: [00:35:50] And I've got to tell you one thing about me being a carpenter, I was OK, but I was certainly no skilled guy, so I get a job rent for this display, a big display house. So we're making these enormous fancy things. And that allowed me to learn all this stuff on the job that I really needed to know for my art career. It was kind of a nice thing, you know

Craig: [00:36:11] Right

Tom: [00:36:12] I did that. Frances and I got together at that point. We'd known each other, but we hadn't, you know, been together. And that's when things really started going, you know, and I think it's because I finally realized and not that all those years were wasted, but I thought, Man, if you're going to do this, do it. Don't just wave your hands and go, Oh, I can't do this because I don't have enough money. So I said I got a fairly high paying job and building things and spent the rest of my time trying to make art that might maybe attract someone to it, you know, maybe still have some of those shadows and reflections and that kind of stuff, but maybe something that might last longer than a week or a month. And that was since I did have some better building techniques at that point. I thought, you can you're smart enough, you can do this. You can make something that makes that reflection over there that you could attach, that you could leave there to do that all the time, not just something you crumpled up, you know. So that made me start thinking more and then getting together with Francis. We, you know, she was real serious in teaching. Well, she yeah, she was still teaching them and things just started developing at that point, you know? And I know you asked Frances about her first public art piece. And all these things didn't happen like like this? I'm jumping ahead and back a little bit. But one of the biggest things that happened for me after I got back from all this cooking and stuff and we saw Frances saw this thing about a show in Japan where you could send them an image and it's an outdoor sculpture park and you send them one image and $200 entry fee. And I went Good God $200? Yeah, this is like in '93 or something, and it was a lot of dough just to send from one image. She said, "You should do this" because I just made this model of a thing that looked like a boat, you know, and it was kind of done with straight lines, and I thought it was pretty ingenious, you know, and

Craig: [00:38:27] The wooden one or

Tom: [00:38:29] Well, I did a wooden boat first and then I did the great big, gigantic one in Japan, you know, out of steel. But but that was I had a little my cat, which was was I looked at my cat. It's a piece of junk. But anyway, I sent that in and a diagram, and I wasn't really sure how to draw this thing, but I gave it a shot in two hundred bucks and mailed it off to Japan. And I thought, Well, that's the end of that, you know? And sure enough, I get shortlisted for this pretty big sculpture show in Japan. Hmm. And shortlisted means you would build a. They gave us, I think, a thousand bucks to build a model. I think it was a thousand dollars to build a model and a proposal for a piece that would be in this outdoor sculpture park, you know? And well, this is pretty cool,

Craig: [00:39:14] Right?

Tom: [00:39:15] And I liked Japan. I'd never been there, but I'd always been fascinated by Japan since I was a kid and said, Oh, this will be great and make a long story short, I did. Through these skills I developed, I did build a kind of wonderful model and I got it. I was accepted and I think they they said, like thirty artists from all the world. And at the time, Japan had a ton of money, so they were what they would do is they'd fabricate your piece. They give you like $50,000 to fabricate a piece, right? And it was like, I think it was 50, Francis would have to tell you. It was either 50 or 30. But at the time it was a ton of money and they'd fabricate the piece. They'd ship it over and then they'd fly you over business to people business for this opening. I went, God, this is great.

Craig: [00:40:02] Wow.

[00:40:04] And the the great part about this was I had had so many job things that sort of worked and worked great or didn't work. I knew that there's ups and downs. So when I went into this, I thought, this isn't going to be an easy thing to do because I didn't know any fabricators. I could do this stuff and anything. Well, anyway, it did work fairly smooth and I got I don't want, I don't want her head to swell up over here, my wife. But at that point she was saying, Well, you know, you need to do this and she could do all this paperwork. And I think this might have even been when computers were just getting into businesses. So she was up on top of all that, and I was like, if I'd had to do all that and make these models and. The figure, though, is stuff out, I would have never done it, you know? Right? Well, it did work out. They fabricated is a wonderful piece. It's a permanent piece of this art park. We went over to Japan and had this great time and met all these Japanese artists who were real friendly with today. A lot of them. And now we've been back to Japan so many times. It was, it was another changing part of my career. And it was from a lot of hard work on my part. And Frances' worked that this thing happened and and, you know, I got another one right after that. And you know that that that was it was difficult, but it was sort of like I realized you can do these things. You can have other people build these gigantic things that you don't know how to do right, and you don't have time to learn or the money to buy all the equipment you can. You can work with them and they can do these things. And that was a big turning point for both of us, I think, you know.

Craig: [00:41:49] Sure. Did any of that interaction with Japan and their culture did? Did it wind up coming back and influencing your work in any way? Did you see?

Tom: [00:42:00] Well, you know, a lot of my work, you've seen what I do and and it's it's fairly clean lines and sort of simplicity is is very important. And I think I always had some sort of influence from Asian work that I looked at early and as a child and early in my life. I don't know how much it's influenced my work, but I continue to be interested in pretty much all things Asian and Japanese. You know, you know, we did this, this opera in Dallas, which was that's another story. But in later years and going to Japan a lot, we've gone to theater and stuff in Japan, Kabuki to start off with because that's what every tourist goes to see. But in one time, I remember thinking, why in the world am I so interested in Japan and Japanese things and Asian things? And I think it's from my childhood. My folks had some sort of furniture esthetic that was kind of along those lines, you know? And I was also born August 6th, which is the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. So I've always been reminded of how bad that is and how bad countries can be to each other.

Craig: [00:43:16] Yeah

Tom: [00:43:17] But I just I remember going to the theater and seeing things. And I remember about 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago, I thought, Why have you always been interested in what is going on? So I start trying to read Japanese history and all this. I'm going, this makes I don't I'll never learn anything about this. And so I thought, well, Kabuki Theater, that was kind of interesting with the colors and the stuff and very Japanese kind of. And start reading about that and I forget where I read it. But in some book, I read hat Kabuki is like a Broadway play. You know, it's for the masses it's made to entertain and blah blah blah. But what you really need to look into is Noh Theater, which is more like a serious off-Broadway play or a serious opera. And it's something that you can actually study. And it's not. It is entertainment, but it's something that study. I thought, who is an artist that sounds even better?

Craig: [00:44:23] Right

Tom: [00:44:24] So I started looking into that, and I'm very interested in that, and it is the most complicated thing in the world. But this last trip to Japan, we did get to go to like four no plays, and it was just tremendous. And if you don't know much about look it up because it is as an artist, I think it's it just says so much about everything, about, you know, music, visuals, light shadow history. It's all there. And it's even if you can't speak the language, it's worth worth feeling that whole thing you get from those. Anyway, I kind of went off on a sad thing.

Craig: [00:45:03] No, no, that's fine, you know? But you know, it was a question about Japanese esthetic. You know, maybe, maybe there is some there's maybe you had a natural propensity to that esthetic to begin with. That may have been the reason they were drawn to your work.

Tom: [00:45:20] That's what everybody says. Well, of course you got in this show in Japan because look at your work. Well, if you look at a lot of Japanese art, I mean, especially nowadays, it's it's gone away from the clean kind of thing we think about to more cartoony pop culture kind of things, which is great. I mean, things change, but I think it always had that feeling for that. There's no theater thing is just an extra attraction that I got. Plus our travels to Japan and dealing with our friends in Japan. That's been like a really valuable thing for both of us because, you know, just knowing artists in different countries is is is sort of invaluable. I mean, because we all deal with exactly the same thing. Exactly. You know, no one ever has enough money. No one ever has enough shows. But this is all you want to do. Right, right. Of course, we all want to go to Japan. They all want to come here

Craig: [00:46:13] Right. So that commission was was was pretty big for you.

Tom: [00:46:17] It was the first big, big commission, and I think it was $30,000. I can't remember.

Craig: [00:46:21] But yeah, you haven't slowed down with public commissions. I mean, that's something that really kind of keeps you busy.

Tom: [00:46:27] It does keep you busy. And I got a couple of little stories about that. My brother one time said, he's always my brother has always had a great job, so it's a math teacher. For a while. He was a school administrator for a while. His wife's been a counselor and they're retired now. They're doing fine. But even though I've known him all my life, I don't. This money thing always comes up. He goes, Oh, he said, You got that in Japan, he said. And you just got this thing for this blah blah blah blah. So that's that's one hundred thousand dollars. That's just. He said, Man, you get three or four of those a year, you're set. I went, I get one of those every seven years. What are you talking about? I mean, it's like, that's the deal. I mean, on the surface, it looks like we're constantly busy with these gigantic things because they take so long. And a lot of times they do pay money, a lot of money or some money, and that's how we get by. But you know, it takes two or three years on these things, and it's it's like constant work. Yeah, yeah. You're seeing my mouth going to do this. And one other thing I say this, I think this is funny. And even if...I think everybody should think this is funny and the joke is, I've got some good news and bad news. Good news is I got the commission. Bad news is I got the commission. 

Craig: [00:47:45] Right.

Tom: [00:47:46] I think that's hilarious because I mean, you're so overjoyed to get these things. And then when I mean, things always can go wrong. Yeah, you can always fix them. But it's like you get this guy so happy and then it's like, Oh my God, you know, nine times out of 10 and maybe nine, nine percent of the time you can pull it off, you pull it off. That's the wrong word. You can make it happen.

Craig: [00:48:05] It's a learning process. 

Tom: [00:48:07] It is.

Craig: [00:48:07] Because it's like, you know, you don't when you start, you're not really sure how you're going to pull it up. But you you figure out, OK, this is how people do this.

Tom: [00:48:17] You know, you basically have to find the best people you can possibly find. Not the most expensive sometimes, but the best people you can find to do the stuff that you have no idea how to do or the stuff that you know how to do that they can do much better, right? You get those people around you. First of all, you get this confidence thing going where you know they're not going to let us everybody fail here, right? And it can be done. If you get way ahead of yourself and go, Oh great, I just got something for a million dollars. Great, I'm a millionaire. You're an idiot, man. Because nine times out of 10 or seventy five percent of the time, you're going to have to pay out the nose for something that you had no idea what's going to cost that much money. Right. So you really, you know, it can really shrink down. And again, we it's not about the money. That's not why we do these things. We try to make a living and we try to make enough where we can continue making artwork. It's not to be billionaires or the most important person, But you have. you can't constantly lose money on them. You have to make some profit. And we've been very fortunate through Frances handling of things and our being pretty, not stingy. But you know, we were frugal with the way we do things, but not frugal when it comes down to if you really have to have something, we'll spend what it takes, you know, right? But we're not going to throw money away on something that's idiotic to make us feel better. I'll solve that tomorrow. I'll give a bunch of money that it'll be done. Well, no, maybe you think about it for an extra month and then it's done right and everybody's happier. You know, that's the kind of stuff you deal with constantly. And I think my wife might have brought this up to at one point. We really just want to be in the studio working all day on work.

Craig: [00:50:17] Yeah

Tom: [00:50:17] And when you're dealing with these big things, sometimes it keeps you from doing that. That's, you know, That's...bothers the wrong word. I mean, we're doing what we love to do, but we would like to be in the studio as much as possible thinking about our work.

Craig: [00:50:32] Right, right. The intrinsic reward for you, is it making something that you look at and you personally say, I I love this piece. Or is it knowing that someone else is going to have a unique, emotional experience with your work, or do you think about the legacy of your work and 40, 50 years from now, it still being here affecting people?

Tom: [00:50:59] I think it's almost every one of those things you said is what I would want to happen with the piece. It's something, OK, something you've developed from model stage or idea stage, and then you finally get to stand in front of it. Well, that is the best feeling in the world, you know, to know that someone else can stand in front of that and either have exactly the same feeling you have or maybe some other feeling that I don't have. They may hate it, but it's a feeling and it's, in other words, to connect to someone else. That's that's so important, too. And then the legacy part, I don't know. I mean, I don't know what's going to be like in 50 years. I know when I was a kid and I saw things that were done from artists in the past.

Craig: [00:51:43] Mm hmm.

Tom: [00:51:44] It turned me on. I mean that those kind of things that really, really, really helped my career seeing work by artists from the past. Robert Irwin had these two great pieces those disc pieces at the original museum, and I don't know if it's the same ones that the Rachowski's have at their house, but he had two of them at the RISD Museum. And I can remember as a student looking at those things going, it's the most intelligent thing in the simplest thing and the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen. It was shadows. 

Craig: [00:52:14] He's still making work

Tom: [00:52:15] I know he is, and it's like

Craig: [00:52:17] In his mid 90s.

Tom: [00:52:18] So that's, you know. Yeah. So the legacy is very important to you. Get this problem, especially for outdoor pieces and stuff. If people will take care of them as they should, which is very, very important and you can only trust that they will. That's right. And when we make these things, we we make them to last. We make them to where people should follow a way to maintain them if they choose not to. At some point, it's out of our hands, but you hope they would, you know?

Craig: [00:52:47] So the wildlife water theater, it didn't survive. No. And so how do you feel about that?

Tom: [00:52:55] Well, you know, it's funny, Frances and I did that together as a total collaboration, and I saw it in one way. She saw it in a different way, but collaborate together, and it worked out as a tremendous piece, which a lot of people loved. I got to tell you, and we spent about a year going around to public meetings, meeting meetings, not trying to sell this. They'd already said, We want you to do this, but to assure people that this wouldn't damage the ecology, wouldn't damage the, wouldn't have any impact on nature. Really, it's a visual thing at the lake now. We found out later. Some people even thought that was too much, that there should be nothing at the lake like artwork. Well, that was a surprise to us, because that's why they hired us, you know?

Craig: [00:53:40] Right

Tom: [00:53:41] It was unfortunate in that we we put everything we had into that. We we didn't lose money doing this thing, but we didn't make much at all. And again, it it's that's not the point. We did something we thought was right for the community. We didn't get

Craig: [00:53:59] As part of your community because, oh yeah,

Tom: [00:54:01] We live here, we live close and we, you know, again, we didn't say, Come on, give us as much money. We'll make something and we'll go somewhere else. We we maintain it ourselves for five years. We only are supposed to do it for two years. We did it for five. There's a picture of us there on the wall, in our wetsuits. You look like idiots, but you know, we did that wipe the bird crap off of them twice a year and stuff. But there was an unfortunate deal that happened with the economy in the city of Dallas, and the funds for maintaining art wasn't just hours, it was all the artwork couldn't be done, so it fell into disrepair. And you know, I mean, I thought of this just the other day that swimming doc that's been out there with those light posts has been there since the 40s. And those poles are all cockeyed and everything, and the the swimming platform was loaded with crap and beat up. No one ever complained about that. We get the art piece out there. I don't know what happened, but it upset a lot of the homeowners around the area must not have been the same homeowners that were so convinced that they want us to do this thing, you know,

Craig: [00:55:10] Right

Tom: [00:55:10] But they they they finally got it taken down, and that was a sad day for us and that the piece is gone. Sad for people who really loved it. Even if it was, it wasn't. I mean, it was. There was some rusted spots and things were crooked. But Jeremy Strick didn't seem to think so. At the National Museum. He thought it was fine. It should be. Maybe, you know, should be there forever, you know, right? But it happened. And you know, it's unfortunate. It's unfortunate for the city because it doesn't make the city look so good that they would kind of do something like that. I don't know. I shouldn't say that about City. You know, they. They hired us to do it, and they did the best they could do, but it's a shame it happened. I'm not going to blame anyone for it happening and this may just be me personally. I don't know, and I think I don't know. We've talked about this, but my my take on it too is if people are really that upset by it.

Craig: [00:56:08] Mm hmm.

Tom: [00:56:10] Do you really want something out there that's just going to make people ill? You know, I mean, of course, that's an exaggeration, but it's like, I mean, some people were really upset by this thing and just said it's ruining the lake and all that and the equal number of people loved it, I guess. But I mean, it's a it's a tough call. It's a real tough call.

Craig: [00:56:29] If the materials have been different, if there hadn't been light, you know, if it would have seemed more organic. Is it is there a way that those people would have? Is there any chance that those people could have been happy? Are those are there just some people that are going to be sticks in the mud. Regardless, it's funny I say stick in the mud. That's a really bad pun.

Tom: [00:56:51] We use the technology of the times, which was like nineteen, ninety eight or ninety nine or something. So the lights were were hand done by her brother, by Francis's brother. And best you could get at the time, the best wiring you could get at the time, we bolted on to the concrete under whatever you call the part underneath the the bath area that was concrete in the 20s and 30s. We bolted into that, you know, we did everything, hired underwater divers to do all this stuff. We did everything we thought would make this thing last. And of course, you know, things happen with the concrete we weren't aware of. Things happened with the lighting we weren't aware of the, you know, being in the water caused some problems. Maybe if the budget had been bigger in the beginning, I don't know. Maybe if there had been more budget to maintain it more over the years, it might have lasted. I don't know. It's it's a tough call. You know, kind of the way we felt at the end was maybe just let it be there. Whatever happens happens. If it gets dangerous, then by all means take something away. But if something instead of being quiet is now kind of mossy green at some point, maybe that's OK. Maybe that's what happens at a lake, you know, right? But you know that some people don't think that we thought differently, but again, it's over and done and you know, we'll see what happens next. I sorry, it happened, you know? Yes, I'm glad we did it. I'm glad we did the piece, but I'm sorry that had to happen,

Craig: [00:58:28] Right. So that experience you had in with the display company, did your stuff start getting bigger after that? Did that help you kind of get a sense of the larger scale?

Tom: [00:58:41] I think it might have. And this is going back. This is before Japan. That was before Japan, too. Yeah, yeah. Things started getting bigger, you know, as a matter of fact, remember this display company, they used to have a bunch of mini warehouses over off of industrial and like a couple of them, were vacant. So I just took that over one time and like, did a piece in there and photographed it and then later did it at 500 X as a reunion show right? That's funny. So borrowed one of their places as a studio

Craig: [00:59:07] Yeah, you know, I saw one of your pieces. It was a floating mountain.

Tom: [00:59:12] Oh yeah.

Craig: [00:59:13] Yeah, it looked like. 

Tom: [00:59:15] It was big.

Craig: [00:59:16] Yeah. And like big and looked like, you know, that wasn't it wasn't built in a day. I mean, that was that was.

Tom: [00:59:23] That's a good story, too. That was a Francis. And I did a show at University of Texas at Arlington, and she had one side of the gallery and I had the other, and they were pretty big, I guess sixty feet wide or something, you know, we'd just gotten back from Japan. I remember on the train we'd seen Mount Fuji and it's like this great thing floating in mid air. So I thought, Oh, I think I'll build a floating mountain, you know, and I thought, how do you do that? And I'd been I had done some pieces earlier where I took that concrete wire, which you could buy huge sheets like, I think they were eight feet by 20. I think you could get or ten, but yeah, eight by 20 real cheap, like six bucks. And so I thought, Man, you could. And I've done a piece where I did them in a circle and then kind of took sticks and made something in the nets. So it looked like it was kind of floating, you know, small scale. You really see the wire a lot and you got to put a lot of things in there to make it convincing. So I thought, Well, I'll just do a huge, you know, why not, right? And so I thought, I'll build a floating mountain. And the idea was, you made this kind of ingenious thing of wire that I hung from the ceiling and then shot to the floor and connected together. So I had like a framework, and I thought all I've got to do is make like a topographical map.

Craig: [01:00:35] Yeah

Tom: [01:00:35] and make a circle here with these sticks and wire them on, right? And then you just and I had a drawing of a mountain, so I kind of.and you just keep going up, you know, and it'll make a mountain. And so I got about three. Or is the way done and looked at it and it it looked like nothing you couldn't you could get no idea of the form, it just looked like a bunch of kind of wiggly circles in space,

Craig: [01:00:59] Right. 

Tom: [01:01:00] I thought oh man, you know, what am I going to do? And then I realized, Well, you take another piece and connect each one of those lines together this way and then this way.

Craig: [01:01:10] Right

Tom: [01:01:11] And that'll make the form and that'll fill it out. And I thought, you know, why don't you think of that before? It took like three times as long to build it as I thought, and right in the middle of

Craig: [01:01:20] Did it start getting heavy? Did you ever start worrying about?

Tom: [01:01:24] No, it didn't. It didn't get heavy because I used these small sticks. And since it was spread out, I mean, the whole thing weighed a lot. But no, it all kind of supported itself. I mean, I didn't figure this out as an engineer. I just kind of did it because I thought it would work and it did. And I get all the way to the top and it's a mountain. It was amazing to me, right? And plus you weren't supposed to get inside of it, but you could slip underneath there and walk around in there and it was like, You're inside this gigantic mountainous shape. It was pretty, pretty cool. In the midst of building this, too. They had a huge ice storm that's right in the middle of it, and I couldn't get home when that said it spent the night there and then come in and I actually finished it the next day, but

Craig: [01:02:06] Did you sleep under the mountain?

Tom: [01:02:08] No, I stay at a motel. But yeah, that was that was a. Yeah. And that and then I did another piece. Frances did one at the Irving Arts Center and one side of the room, and I did one on the other. It was the same concept and these were even taller. They were like, Damn, I think maybe close to 25 feet tall, maybe 30. And it was like an iceberg shape.

Craig: [01:02:32] Mm hmm.

Tom: [01:02:33] In other words, if you saw the bottom and the top of an iceberg, and that was an interesting one because it was

Craig: [01:02:40] Kind of conical, but then it had kind of a mountain shape on the tops of the top

Tom: [01:02:44] And then the bottom was kind of the same thing. And I did three of them in this room, different shapes and I studied icebergs, you know, and that was an interesting one, putting it up because it worked like a dream. I had a lift and I built the whole thing. And then I, of course, took all the wood off taking it down. And then when it came to taking it down, I realized there's no way to really take this thing down because I built it this way. And if you take this top piece down because I'd built it like this and I kind of support it as I built it up, if you cut the top loose to take it down, that's holding the whole thing up, you know? So I basically had to sort of destroy it taking it down, which is another big lesson. I should have planned it because it actually was not very safe, either.

Craig: [01:03:27] Well, you know, it kind of reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy. It's similar to the types of materials that he uses and you know, those things just kind of site specific and they're not made to be taken apart. No other than by nature, which is like part of his whole sure mantle, right?

Tom: [01:03:46] It's funny. You should mention that mountain, because that was a that was a good I love that piece and it only exists in. I think I've got some of the wire back there and some of the wood, but only in photos, you know, right?

Craig: [01:03:57] And so but it's not the last mountain, you know? I mean, you've so you on the studio tour, you're giving me your show, me the the maquette for mountains down at Sam Houston,

Tom: [01:04:09] Sam Houston State. Yeah, that was a piece at this new building at Sam Houston State, and Frances did a piece in the lobby there and those worked out great. And it's interesting about those mountains because those mountains came from that. I don't know if you've seen my work where I've done those waterfalls. 

Craig: [01:04:26] Right

Tom: [01:04:26] And I used to do these waterfall 

Craig: [01:04:31] Spillway

Tom: [01:04:31] And most. And the original one was striped wall, striped floor. And then these rods bent like this uniformly. But, you know, changing the bend as you change the top curve and it makes it more apparent like falling water, you know, right? I did several of those. I even did one out of steel kind of the same way with the front and the back, you know? And then one day I was thinking about getting trying to get in another show in Japan. So I thought, man, you know, you can't really put a sheet of something behind something because then you've got a front in the back. So if you're making a sculpture, you need to be able to walk around it like this. And I realized if you take make a hoop like this, you do have a front in the back. And so I was able to make this thing kind of like freestanding waterfall image thing, you know, right? Which worked out great. Very successful in this show in Japan, except they didn't buy it. So you saw it in the parking lot sitting out here. But anyway, that that led me because I thought, if I can do that, why can't you make a mountainous form like that, right? And bend these and kind of intuitively kind of shape it like a mountain, you know? I mean, I guess, of course, you could go to a computer and take any mountain and draw that thing and then bend them to each. But, you know, that kind of stuff a little hard for me to learn right now, so I thought, Well, let's do it by hand. And so I've actually came up with a design for those mountains five or six years ago, and there was just never a place to do it or the money and this thing happened to come around. It was a real nice commission. I have to tell you, it worked out good. That's awesome. But it's something that and it changed a little bit because I had to make like a door on there that you could not a door, but an opening where you could actually go inside of it, which kind of orked better, I think, than the original one, so. 

Craig: [01:06:20] Sure. And so, you know, as I was mentioning, I was walking around earlier, you know, those pieces that that have the striped background. And when I saw the images online, at first, I wasn't sure the purpose. But then I started thinking about, OK, if I were moving past, this is it would be a lot like a lenticular animation.

Tom: [01:06:42] Exactly what it is. Yep,

Craig: [01:06:43] And I'm like, There's going to be this thing is going to be really humming in resonating, and it's really, really going to get a sense of movement, even though it's perfectly static, right?

Tom: [01:06:55] Right.

Craig: [01:06:55] And and so when did you, I assume I assume that that was probably also part of your thought. And like, at what point did you start realizing that you wanted to use those vertical stripes and don't say first grade? Yeah.

Tom: [01:07:12] Well, OK, preschool? No. You know, I explain the thing about the Venetian blinds, but right, you're trying to find something in here that does that, that that fan of the right right there that still fascinates me. I love looking at it. You know, back in the Op Art Days, Yeah, they took that. Did so much of it to a fault. I mean, you bet, damn shopping bag. And it looks like that and everything was psychedelic. You know, patterns like that kind of took all the interest out of it for me, but I still have always been fascinated by that. I kind of wouldn't think about it as much as artwork until I realized if you took that same thing happening there and don't make everything, do that, but makes something do that along with something else, you know, right? Then it gets interesting because you've got this thing over here that's kind of buzzing and moving on its own, and you don't you can't figure it out. And then next to it is just some stripes. I mean, it's almost like a it's almost like a 3D 2D thing is moving and I'm not doing anything, you know, it's it's like kind of the perfect painting sculpture of movement in your artwork kind of piece you can get. And it's basically the line over line, right? It's over the years I've tried to really make it less and less and less where I just did a piece recently. It's very small, it's a stripe panel, and all it has is a kind of a piece of wire looped around it. Mm hmm. And it does the same thing, but it's just one tiny wire that that does that. So it right to me, that is much more. It's just as beautiful as a whole waterfall looking thing, just that one wire mysteriously changing. I think on my Instagram page, I thought about that piece is done. In fact, it was in that show Barry had in his office. At the last show I was in that he not the last, the last show I was in at Barry's. this is I'm with Barry Whistler Gallery, right? And he's been really good to me over the years, but allowing me to do these things in his gallery, that's like the last show I did. His old gallery was just two pieces one in one room, one or the other, a rug piece and a piece that stood in the middle of the room that kind of balanced on a beam. I mean, they were interesting pieces, but that he let me take up the whole gallery with those two pieces. Fantastic of him to do that, this last show I was in, he had a show up front and then he has a new wall, a 12 foot by 12 foot wall he's real proud of. And in the back area there. And so he was in the studio one day and he you saw this piece up there. Yeah, he said I was working on something like a strap wall with, I mean, not found objects, but basically things from the studio that I'd kind of made that weren't really anything. But I knew they would kind of get going on the stripe surface. So I kind of leaned them at different angles and crossed them and did things right. So Barry walks in, goes, Is that a piece? And I said, Well, it could be, and he goes, Well, let's do this. And so again, he let me put this one piece in the back room. Just that in the whole back half of the gallery, right? And it it looks pretty good in my space, but in his space, it just looked incredible. I mean, it just it's kind of like the best place you could put this piece and the lighting was right on it. So anyway, it worked out good. You know what, I'm.

Craig: [01:10:48] Yeah.

Tom: [01:10:49] Good for Barry, I got to tell you. And good for me.

Craig: [01:10:52] Right, right. And so

Tom: [01:10:55] But those things I think I'll continue to do, I mean, again, I like making them as really simple as possible, but sort of concentrated in areas, you know, it's right. It changes, I don't know, but

Craig: [01:11:10] I know you guys are, you know, work on like the big public art. But do you do you think about doing smaller pieces that move faster out the door?

Tom: [01:11:22] Yeah, we talk, for instance, to talk about that a lot. You know, we do like the freedom to do whatever we want to do, especially in gallery situations. So she's been allowed that over the years and so have I with different galleries to do what we want to do, even if they don't sell. They still allow these things to happen, which again, you got to praise those gallery owners because, you know, that's that's they're in the business to show wonderful art right to stay in business. They need to sell wonderful art so, you know, to take a whole space and give it to an artist that just as for an installation, is good. We both like doing that, but we both know we need to make smaller work and we have made smaller work over the years. It's something I don't know. It seemed like the older we get, it might be a wise thing to do too, because these things might be a little easier to transport and work on. And I've actually got a bunch of stuff started back here that I make models all the time and I'm not going to make models for sale. I'm just not going to write for sale. I'm just not going to do that, but I can make small things that do what these big things do. Mm hmm. As of yet, I haven't figured out how to do them where it pleases me. Right, right. I mean, there's I see stuff all the time. I go, God, that's sort of what I want to be doing. I mean, the way that person did that, if I could just and I need to concentrate on that and I know they'll come. It's just you have to think about it more and more and more. And that that's something I would like to strive for making things that I could sit on that table there that would do not do exactly what these big things do here. But you get that same feeling from it, you know, and it's not that it's a oh, it's a miniature of that big thing. This is actually a real piece, but it happens to be smaller, sure. But look at what the hell is doing, you know?

Craig: [01:13:14] Yeah, somebody wanted to find you. Where are you out there?

Tom: [01:13:18] Ok, it's is the website. 

Craig: [01:13:22] OK. 

Tom: [01:13:23] He's got a he's got a nice website. I think this is still, yeah, he's got a nice website, and he used to have some videos of me talking about stuff, which is take it one way. It's either extremely funny or extremely informative. I don't know, but they're good and Barry Whistler Gallery his website. And then we both started this Instagram thing. So right? Instagram What is it?

Craig: [01:13:48] The at. 

Tom: [01:13:51] @tomorrart

Craig: [01:13:52] Right, right on. Yeah, well, I hey, I appreciate your time.

Tom: [01:13:57] Thank you for doing this. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Craig: [01:14:09] And now the news. 

Craig: [01:14:13] Artists usually believe that their work is their legacy long after they die. The work will still be there to carry on. However, things have a way of changing and sometimes artwork has a way of just disappearing. For example, Jens Galschiøt's sculpture Pillar of Shame, which was placed at the University of Hong Kong in nineteen ninety seven as a memorial to those killed in the nineteen eighty nine Tiananmen crackdown. As we all know, the political climate in Hong Kong has changed. In October, the civil rights organization that originally commissioned Galschiøt's work received a letter from the university asking them to remove it. Since then, the organization was forcefully dissolved, along with other civil groups and unions in a recent government crackdown, fearing the demolition of the artwork. The artist tried to reach out to the university to arrange a way to get the sculpture back. But the university would not return his calls. Then, last week, in the dark of early morning hours, the sculpture was disassembled and carted away. Where it is now is anyone's guess, but it's very likely it won't be seen again.

Craig: [01:15:29] The art world lost a genuinely good guy this week with the passing of Wayne Thiebaud. Thiebaud was the godfather of West Coast realism, respected by many and disparaged by none. Thiebaud grew up in Southern California and spent time in the first motion picture unit of the Army Air Corps during World War Two. After the war, he enrolled at San Jose State before later transferring to Sacramento State, where he obtained his bachelor's and master's. It was in this artistic hotbed of Sacramento that Thiebaud planted roots first taking a teaching job at his alma mater before a 30 year stint at nearby UC Davis. Thiebaud retired from teaching in nineteen ninety one but maintained a professor emeritus title there and would guest lecturer at the university. In nineteen sixty one, Thiebaud caught the eye of legendary art dealer Allen St.. That relationship started opening doors. Thiebaud had been creating a series of paintings of food that were both appealing and contemporary. In nineteen sixty two, he was included in a groundbreaking show at SFMOMA called You Painting of common objects that also included the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, and signaled the beginning of the pop art era. His subjects ranged from food to landscapes to portraits, but the paintings always communicated a certain quintessential Americana. It's always amazing what long full lives artists live. I believe it's because painting is something that is doable and provides purpose well into advanced age on the act of painting. Thiebaud had commented, "It has never ceased to thrill and amaze me the magic of what happens when you pull one bit of paint next to another. I wake up every morning in paint. I'll be damned, but I just can't stop." Well. After 101 years, the painting has stopped.

Craig: [01:17:34] It seems like twenty twenty one was a year of newly discovered antiquities. A Roman mosaic floor was uncovered in the English countryside, and an original Albrecht Durer Ink drawing was purchased at an estate sale for a price less than a family of four dining at Chipotle. This week, there is more news about a painting attributed to Joseph Ribera that was pulled from auction in April. This week, it was granted protected status by the Spanish government, while additional research is done to verify whether the small painting is actually a Caravaggio. The status also allows time for the Spanish government to decide whether they want to purchase the artwork in order to keep it in Spain. The painting was originally scheduled to be auctioned in April of this year with a pre auction estimate of fifteen hundred euro, but was pulled from auction by the family who was selling it when they started receiving private party offers in the five hundred thousand to three million euro range that caused the family to pull the item from auction while they figured out exactly what they had. It seems that photos of the item had started floating around to experts who had immediately attributed the work to Caravaggio. One such scholar penned the painting to an art contest submission by Caravaggio in the year preceding the murder that led to his exile from Italy. It's thought that in that time after the murder, the painting may have been re attributed in order to avoid the embarrassment of owning a painting produced by a murderer. Another theory about the lost attribution and moved to Spain connects the organizer of that art contest, whose cousin became the papal ambassador to Madrid in sixteen twenty three. Either way, the painting eventually wound up in the collection of Antonio Perez de Castro, founder of Madrid's IADE Design School, and the artist Mercedes Mendez Attard. It was upon their passing that their children were presented with the shock that the small painting that they had lived with their entire childhood may be a lost treasure. Practically all Caravaggio's are owned by institutions, so the prospect of one coming to auction is sure to create some auction theatrics. Now we just have to wait for the nation of Spain to decide if they can pony up the funds to add the piece to the collection of the Prado, or if a private collector will be able to return the piece to Italy. Either way, that pre auction estimate has gone from fifteen hundred euro to something in the neighborhood of fifty million.

[01:20:10] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening.

< Show Less