Thom Ross isn't shy about his heroes.
In fact, the chaps-wearing, mile a minute tale-teller doesn't seem shy about much of anything. Like his paintings, Ross is colorful and brash and no stranger to controversy, but don't let him fool you: there's more to his bravado - and to his works - than meets the eye. He's a good painter, a serious thinker, and is after noble themes, such as transcendence, redemption and betrayal. In Ross's view, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the like are more than criminals: they're archetypes - cultural characters repeating and resonating throughout history. Characters that pack serious mythological punch.
Ross probes history's dark side for iconic villains with huge stories, creating stylized, high-drama, high contrast portraits accessorized with specific historic accoutrements. Space is flattened and figures are abstracted in bold strokes against monochromatic backgrounds. Still, these bad boys carry a sense of humor via Ross's playful color use. Primary and primal, color is his way of refining his miscreants against a black and white history of "wanted" posters and microfiched police blotters. This is a testosterone-fueled world of gun fighters, warriors, boxers and thieves.
In addition to works on canvas, Ross creates free-standing, oversized, painted wood cutouts, animated by vibrant color and deft handling of scale. Installed in the landscape, these pieces become grand theater. Like a child arranging toy soldiers in intricate battle positions, Ross poses his cutouts to recreate iconic moments in history, his way.
Born in San Francisco in 1952, Thom Ross has had a life long interest in American History and the "folk hero" who is a product of that history and has long been the motivating force behind his work. His emphasis however is focused on the historical "folk hero" as compared to the mythical "folk hero". (An example of the historical folk hero would be Jesse James, a mythical folk hero would be Paul Bunyan; one actually existed while the other is a product of tall tales.)
His desire is to produce a work of art that requires the viewer to re-examine either what he knows about history, or what he thinks he knows about history. Ross has done paintings of Indians playing croquet; Indians playing ping pong; A camel walking through the deserts of Arizona with a human skeleton strapped to his back; An outlaw member of Butch Cassidy's "Wild Bunch" gang in the quick draw stance of the gunfighter where his opponent is a skunk; General Custer standing next to his pet pelican; and each of these images is based on an actual incident! By presenting such startling images, which are based in fact, it causes a unique reaction in the viewer.
His other objective in re-working so much of our past history into his work is his deep desire to "update" with bright colors, abstract forms and a contemporary style of painting of figures and events from a dim and often misunderstood past.
Ross believes that as we re-examine and often question the historical forces which shaped the lives of the subjects he paints, their "meaning" can fluctuate, and that the subjects of his works can be brought into a contemporary setting with a vibrancy and excitement that is seldom, if ever, found in the more standard traditional style of art work that has so often been used to represent "historical" figures and events.
With his love of history comes an enjoyment in story telling and he can easily capture and audiences attention with his passion and unique perspective.
Living in Seattle, Thom Ross shows in numerous galleries throughout the USA and now lectures at colleges on the Wild West where he combines a unique and passionate presentation of art and history.
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Thom was named "BEST ORIGINAL PERIOD WESTERN PAINTER" for 2012 by True West magazine.