Interview with Artist: Thom Wright

Interview with SCA Member Thom Wright, by guest interviewer JB
March 2015

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JB – What’s a retired aerospace engineer like you doing making art in Orange County?
TW – We all come to art from many different beginnings. I started painting in watercolor about 35 years ago, after I graduated from college, and fell in love with it. Painting was an escape from my technical side, more like play. Then I began taking art courses every semester – art history, drawing, design, photography – it all kept growing and inspiring me to continue.
JB – And what kind of art did you make?
TW – Watercolor. It has some magical qualities that translate representation into its own realm, and I wanted to paint like the California School watercolorists. It combines Eastern and Western art influences. I even took workshops with the greats like Milford Zornes, Robert E. Wood and Millard Sheets.
JB – Did you make any money selling your art?
TW – For a few years in the mid-1980’s I was selling watercolors in community art fairs, and I won a few prizes. I could pay for my annual expenses, but learned that I had to seriously study art to improve. By 1987 I started a 20 year plan to prepare for retirement, enter an art school and get an MFA.
JB – And you made it happen? Were you successful?
TW – Yes and no. Along the way, my five year plans continually changed directions. By the time I retired in ’99, Modernism and abstraction were overtaken by Pop Art and Post Modernism, yet I was still interested in Abstract Expressionism. After getting into art grad school at CSULB, I had to really confront Post Modernism, art theories and Conceptualism that dominate fine art schools today. After one year, I switched my studies from figurative painting to abstraction.
JB – But then you knew what to paint and why?
TW – Sort of. After 6 months of searching and crisis, I finally had a breakthrough and found a way to combine my technical and art backgrounds into a personal direction and style of abstraction. I did my master’s show with paintings dealing with Global Warming.
JB – And now you are an artist?
TW – I’m a painter, and I always have been. My work is more mature now, and it has a conceptual basis that has grown more meaningful to me. In general, my work deals with processes of change, both artistic and cultural. Environmental issues are a major concern to me, but I’m not yet making political art. My goal is raise public consciousness about these issues. It’s nine years now since my graduation and I want to broadcast my progress and work about Global Warming and other matters to Californians.  Check it out at www.thomwrightart.com
Our relation to nature is characterized by its becoming disturbed by human activity, even threatening subtle destruction of the natural basis. The human species has come naturally to dominate and exploit its environment as it always has done. Development and destruction are now the same; Individualism and collective destruction are the same. From the mine and the field and the forest to the sewer system to the dump, modern life grows life lines and life cycles while the ecological systems are sacrificed.
Joseph Beuys, 1970

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