Thomas Baumgartner

Disciplines: Communications, Environmental Education, Fine Art, Photography, Science Illustration
Regions: Baja California, Borderlands, Central Sonora, Sky Islands
Chapter: Tucson

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Tom has painted in oil for 29yrs with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has lived in Tucson for 15yrs and been actively involved with local arts organizations and currently directs Wee Gallery. A life-long nature lover, his art has a focus on animal metaphors, the desert landscape, automatic writing and man made infrastructure in the environment.

Tom has worked with scientists before resulting in a climate change video installation at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum funded by NASA. Currently he is working on a project with an alternative energy company involving clean hydrogen energy.

When I get to a place, I wander with intent, looking for details, looking for grand processes, looking for a character or symbol to appear to me. My tools are my camera and my sketchbook. I'm collecting reference material with my camera. When I choose something to sketch, it's more about slowing down and paying attention than sourcing a composition. Slowing down is how you start to hear what a place has to say. Sometimes a scene, a rock formation, or a plant will let you into the subtleties of a place. Sometimes a design enters into my mind, sometimes words. Sometimes an arbitrary detail will say more than a perfect composition of beauty.

World building is a technique used by writers and artists involving a catalog of details about the politics, culture, natural forces, physics, weather, trade, architecture and characters that make up a world. This becomes a reference to them as they build their story. I use this type of approach when I'm working on a group of artworks.

Science informs my world building. Science helps reveal the processes that make a place. Geology, hydrology, biology, botany, climate, archeology, physics, astronomy, and technology to name a few. Processes are the energy and mood and character of a place. There are complex meshes of interconnectedness all around us. Data reveals this and is nearly always beautiful to behold. There is an ordered randomness to the universe that when revealed speaks to a deeper truth.

My recent explorations in art are centered on the Sonoran Desert and surrounding areas of Arizona. I moved here 15yrs ago to live in this beautiful place and it could take a lifetime to get to know it. I'm interested in an ancient / future aesthetic that frames the unknowable history of a place and the unknowable future. I like mystery. I like mysterious symbols, like automatic writing or ancient glyphs mixed with scenes of nature. In my ink drawings, symbols embedded in natural scenes hint at an underlying structure, a deeper order. I'm beginning to explore what interface might mean in this respect. In respect to the 6&6 project, I'm interesed in integrating data visualization. It may help solidify the 'world' I'm building.

Tom's blog