Thomas W Schaller

Born in: 1960, USA

Lives in: New York City, USA

Describe your art in three words: Experiential not observational

Education: Masters in Architecture Engineering, OSU

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Afternoon in Rome - Watercolor 28 x 20 in

"Why we paint is far more important than how or even what we paint. It is always my aim to paint the expressive experience of my inspirations rather than any physical reality. My work is always a study in contrasts: light / dark, vertical / horizontal, warm / cool, the real / the imagined, and elements of the past, present, and future."

Treehouses Without Trees - Watercolor 24 x 18 in.
What themes does your work involve?
Contrasts - exploring the realms that appear when two opposite energies meet on the surface of the paper. I paint my personal experience of the landscapes that I can see around me, as well as what I see within. Dreams, memories, and elements of pure imagination are methods of "seeing" that are as valid as is real-world observation.
Describe your creative process.
I am motivated by contrasts - abstract clashes of opposite energies that I might perceive visually anywhere and everywhere I go. But contrasts emerge of course in observed visual reality, but no less so in literature, poetry, music, etc. Everything that is beautiful may not be conventionally "pretty", but it is the struggle for balance and harmony that most excite me.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
Of course, I am not the first to say it, but a life in the arts was not something I chose - rather, it chose me. Since I was a child, I had no other way to find a place in the world except through painting and drawing. It is my language, my way to connect with the world, with others as well as with myself. Influences come from everywhere - something I hear on the subway or in a passage of music, something I might read, dream, remember or imagine.
What are your goals and plans as an artist in 2023?
To paint and to write. Teaching has occupied a great deal of my time over the past decade. It has been a privilege. But it is time to step away and dive more deeply into my own work. I am finishing a new book and I have a stack of ideas that need to be explored.
How do recent advancements in technology affect your art practice? How may recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (image generator software) affect the definition of fine art?
Every technological advancement can be seen as an opportunity - not a threat. Digital imaging has "threatened" to put more traditional artists out of business years ago. But it didn't happen. And A.I .,for example, affords even the most analog of artists new ways to see and new ways to speak in their own unique artistic voice.
What is the role of the artist today?
At its core, the making of art is an act of creation. It builds, it does not destroy. In this way - even perhaps in its most angry expressions- art aims to clarify, to console, to illuminate, to clarify. In a world more than ever hobbled by division, disinformation, cynicism, and darkness, the artist has the opportunity to reaffirm the life force - always reaching toward a source of light.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
That is a broad question. Speaking only for myself, I believe that a good piece of art may "show" you something, but a better piece of art has something to say.. It has a narrative that is not literal but rather open to interpretation. And so a great piece of art is one that always inspires a viewer to ask questions. In this way, a dialog opens between the artist and the viewer. A conversation in then possible - a deep personal connection across space and time becomes possible.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist

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