We welcome in Louisiana artist Thomas Wimberly, who joins us for his debut RUN featuring two new hand-pulled screen prints, Detention and Summa Cum Survivor. Following in the footsteps of one of his personal inspirations Shepard Fairey, Wimberly’s first releases couldn’t be more timely, unfortunately began after one school shooting in Florida took place in February, now set to be released after yet another school shooting down in Texas. Read on as Thomas Wimberly discusses his debut RUN, influences and much more. . .
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about these two pieces, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this imagery?
Thomas Wimberly: The all too common tragedy of mass school shootings has caused quite a stir among citizens, with people defending both sides of the argument. These two pieces are meant to confront the viewer and have them come to terms with where they stand in the conversation. I think that our values and ideals should always be self-assessed, even if we’re comfortable with them. This goes for ourselves and our country as a whole.
1x: Was this imagery part of a recent theme, series or show that you had?
Wimberly: These pieces are some of the first of my solo show that will be late this year. The show, titled “Don’t Believe the Hype”, is meant to bring attention to the problems of our country and world that I think are all too often glossed over by the general population for the sake of convenience.
1x: When were these pieces created and what materials?
Wimberly: The original paintings are made with aerosol and hand-collaged paper, on canvas. They were originally created after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. I began on them late February of this year.
1x: Tell us how the idea and execution came about for these images?
Wimberly: The idea came about after seeing the fallout from the shooting. When talk of arming teachers began to circulate, I began to think of the incredibly different environment school has become since my school days. The execution of the idea came about when I decided I wanted to show how arming teachers would look, which led to me creating “Detention”. The image is basically an angel of death, patrolling the school and creating a tense and intimidating environment, while parading around as a cautionary method. Soon after that, I wanted to show how it must feel to go to school these days, and I came up with the image of the graduate in the bullet-proof vest and gas-mask, completely unmoved by the dangerous environment they’ve grown up in.
1x: How long did this imagery take to create from start to finish?
Wimberly: From start to finish, the initial drawings took about 5 hours, while the originals took about 12 a piece to complete.
1x: What is unique about these pieces compared with your other work?
Wimberly: These pieces are my first diptych, and creating them to work together is something that’s a first for me.
1x: Why should people buy this one of these prints?
Wimberly: Being topical is important to me and my work, and I think purchasing one of these prints will hopefully open up the conversation with our family and friends about where we should go from here as a country.
1x: Describe these two images in one gut reaction word.
Wimberly: “Raw”or “Reality”. I’ve had someone describe my work as “mean” as well, which really stuck with me. Not so much as being aggressive but definitely confrontational.
1x: When did you first start making art?
Wimberly: My father studied as a draftsman and would draw with me at a very young age. I went on to study graphic design and subsequently traditional fine art in college, but it wasn’t till I opened a studio with my very close friend that I started painting again. I was tired of using just a mouse, so I decided to find a marriage between it and fine art.
1x: What was your first piece?
Wimberly: I’d say my first piece of intentional work was “Liberty” a large abstraction of the Statue of Liberty in black and white made around the time this last presidential race was warming up.
1x: What artists inspired you early on?
Wimberly: Early on, I was inspired by artists like Ed Roth and the rest of the Kustom Kulture and early underground art crew. I didn’t know their names at the time but my father used to bring me to tons of hot rod shows as a child and the imagery really stuck with me. My dad collected Rat Fink toys, and it wasn’t until college that I realized who was responsible for them. Their bold illustrations and alternative approach really stuck with me.
1x: What artists inspire you now?
Wimberly: As I’m sure it’s apparent in my work, I’m very inspired by Shepard Fairey and his ability to present current issues and problems in society. Ernesto Yerena, Cleon Peterson, Mike Giant, and Kaws have all been huge sources of inspiration for me as well. I want my work to have purpose as opposed to just aesthetic value, and I feel like anyone that has that same mindset has probably influenced me in some way.
1x: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? If not then what is your environment like when you work?
Wimberly: I do listen to music while I work. Early punk is often blasting through the shop’s speakers, but just as often is hip-hop and rap. I know it’s cliché, but with the exception of country, there isn’t much I don’t listen to from time to time. I’ve been getting into podcasts as well lately, so it’s just a toss up what you’ll hear if you walk into the studio.
1x: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why?
Wimberly: Any of the aforementioned artists would really wreck me if I could collaborate with them, but Shepard specifically would be a dream come true. His work taught me that as artists, we can speak through our work on current topics and I hadn’t really thought about it like that before. His Obey campaign also showed me that art doesn’t just have to be acrylics and still-lifes, which is something I didn’t pick up on in my younger days.
1x: If you could collaborate with any deceased artists who would it be and why?
Wimberly: I’ve honestly never thought about this before, but I guess I’d say Keith Haring. The assuredness of his technique as well as how fluid his motions were is something that I find very different from my own methods, so I think I could learn a lot from him. His subject matter would provide an interesting contrast to mine so I think on that level it would be interesting as well.
1x: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it? The last?
Wimberly: The first piece of art I bought which I still have, was a screen printed poster from a local designer named Brad Jensen. That purchase ended up turning into an apprenticeship and a close friendship. The very first piece of art I got however, was a paste-up of a Dennis Rodman sno-cone from a local street artist. I loved it so much I peeled it off the wall. Luckily I’m friends with the artist now because of that experience. The last piece I bought was Cleon Peterson’s “Between Man & God” print.
1x: Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?
Wimberly: I’m in the process of putting together my first show, titled “Don’t Believe the Hype”, for late this year. I’ve been spending this year developing my skillset and I’m looking forward to showing everything together.