Briefly describe the work you do.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
In 1975, the year before I was born, my grandfather, an industrial arts instructor, willed me a collection of unrelated curiosities. Among these seemingly unrelated objects were tools, measuring devices, and jars full of oddities.
As a child, through play, I would create/construct identities and stories for these bizarre unrelated objects. The older I got, play shifted to questioning, and I searched these groupings for meanings, while trying to understand the disconnected relevance to myself (or, even, my life, or, who I am).
This innocent comparative analysis of visual objects to create a dialogue has been a model for my creative research. A non-linear exploration conflates past and present, while objects of commonplace import are imbued with simultaneity, coupling personal narratives and sociological observations. Metaphoric and anthropocentric, the work sorts my declarations, my attempts at personal and social understanding, and my opinions of the self.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio practice is fairly traditional. I work in a multitude of locations, my personal studio, school, basement, dinning room, front porch, outdoors or in the gallery itself. Depending on the type of project that I have going on at the time often dictates which of these spaces will be utilized and viewed as “studio”. I view most of my life as “being in the studio” so regardless of the physical space, in someways I am am always in the studio mentally.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I was a young maker I would have never realized the paperwork, typing, and administrative activities that surround being an active artist.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
After becoming a father I have found that every free moment has potential. I have no set schedule to make, making as much as possible when ever I can. It could be 15 minutes in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon, or at 2 am. I have found, for my practice, there is no best time to make art, anytime is the best time.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My works have a fairly fast evolutionarily pace and has been this was since I can remember. Whether, good or bad, it is the methodology that holds my attention. My works tend to be diverse from one project to the next, so in this way, my difference in my similitude.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
In addition to being a visual artists I have been a musician for a couple decades. Collaborating on a visual or conceptual project seem as natural as playing music with another. Ryder Richards, Byron Rich, Shreepad Joglekar are just a few artists that I have had the pleasure to work with. These artists have powerful presence in their own practice. When working with a collaborator it affords and opportunity for personal growth through a collective experience opening paths to ideologies that are not so independently idiosyncratic. These moments of shared making inform and echo within my own practice both on cognitive and subconscious level.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
For a brief time I chased the music dream exclusively, playing and touring for a few years. It was a time that was powerful satisfying but didn’t take off quite as I had hoped. While I still play, it has certainly taken a backseat to the visual arts. My main interests, asides from making, now are my wife and my two children.
Ian F. Thomas is an installation artist who lives in Slippery Rock, PA and works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. He holds a BFA from Slippery Rock University and an MFA from Texas Tech University. Thomas received additional training at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia, and The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China. His works have been shown nationally and internationally.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.