Words for Art

Tom Ryan

A tribute to a friend on his birthday.


“Her landscapes, or rather skyscapes, give one intellectual elbow room to dream a bit. She takes you to that in-between place in life, the space between sleep and awake on those nice mornings when you awaken without the alarm.” -Tom Ryan


When I begin creating a body of artwork, I work by intuition, I follow my gut, I let my sub-conscious lead me. Many times I can not articulate why I am doing what I am doing or its meaning. I am simply too close to the work to assign words to it. This giving of language is the role of a really great art writer. So I would love for you to meet my friend, the writer Tom Ryan.


Shortly after Tom and I met, we scheduled a time for him to come to my studio to learn more about my work. We spent a couple of hours talking. He asked poignant questions and patiently teased the details of my work, life, and motivation out of me. I thought he was coming to the studio so I could teach him about my work, I didn’t know it was I that would be learning so much. When he left I knew more about my work than when he arrived, and when his article was published words were given to my images that I could never articulate on my own.


Tom was a great writer – he was a great listener.


Despite the fact he had lived and traveled the world (or maybe because of it), he listened as if what I was doing mattered more than anything. His most common greeting when we would meet would be, “What are you working on?” And he truly wanted to know. When I solicited four words about my work, he of course was my first stop. Although when asked for input, he would often lovingly challenge my thinking, or the question I was asking.


Many of you have read his words about my work. They are on my website. They are in my booth. They form the very basis for my understanding of my own work. So, Tom, I need some words today. I need some words this week to articulate the sorrow I feel in your sudden passing. I need some words to offer our friend and your love Elaine as she makes her way without you. (And dammit Tom, I need to see your new play!)
Sweat dreams on your birthday and always, dear, dear Tom. We already miss you!

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