Wednesday, June 18, 2008

July Artist: A Natural Progression

Tom Sargeant’s acrylic paintings have a subdued, meditative quality that one doesn’t always find in abstract art. Look closely and you’ll tune into aspects of the natural world and the effects of time—their colors, textures, compositions.

New work by Sargeant is featured July 11 through August 2 at Grace Chosy Gallery on Monroe Street.

The former doctor recently took time out to answer a few questions about his path to painting, artistic choices and his hopes for those who see his work.

You were a doctor for forty years. How, when and why did you make the switch into art?

As long as I can remember I knew someday I would take up art, so with retirement in 1995 I finally got the chance. Though I never had time for a formal art education, I did take several short courses at MATC, UW and the Peninsula Art School in Door County.

How has your experience as a doctor impacted or influenced your artwork?

As far as I can tell my interests in art and medicine developed at the same time but independently with neither one influencing the other.

How would you describe your style? Why do you use acrylic paints and why do you work in the abstract?

Style? Abstract for sure. Minimalistic usually. Expressionistic? Jacob Stockinger referred to my work as Zen-like: Muted colors, balanced asymmetry, textural, subdued, etc.

Why acrylics? I never even tried oils because my first studio had no ventilation, and now I wouldn't use anything other than acrylics. The best thing about them is that they dry so fast, and the only thing wrong with them is that they dry so fast.

Why abstraction? Tried realism first, became bored with it, and then struggled to break the habit. Nature has always been the greatest influence on my work. Not the objects in nature but rather the effects of nature and time on our surroundings and the resulting textures and colors: rusty metal, weathered wood, etc., etc.

What role does nature play in your work?

I believe making art forces one to become keenly observant.

What do you hope viewers get from seeing your paintings?

Your last question is a tough one. Viewers will find no political statement, no social commentary, no narrative and no recognizable subject matter in my paintings. So there is no need for them to ask, “What’s that supposed to be?” because that’s what I’m asking them. Someone said that abstract artists don’t paint answers, they paint questions. I hope viewers will look at my work and ask themselves, “How does that make me feel on a scale of happy to disgusted?”

IN THE MAGAZINE: The July issue of Madison Magazine comes out tomorrow. Here’s some of the the arts content you’ll find within the pages.

• An Overtones profile on Karlos Moser, a retired UW music professor who recently brought several musical gifts to the town in Brazil where he was raised.
• A Your Town tidbit on how artists are joining the environmental movement in a new program at this year’s Art Fair on the Square.
• The Fabulous Finds page devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandest projects around Madison.
• The annual Best of Madison readers’ poll results featuring the city’s top art galleries, bookstores, DJs, theater companies, performance and music venues, bands, performers, photographers, cinemas, music store, radio stations and hosts, and more.
• The monthly Overtones events calendar with picks on the can’t-miss performances, concerts, exhibitions and festivals taking place in July.

COMING UP: A few events and performances to check out this week.

It’s a busy week for special events. The Attic Angel Association Attic Sale takes place Thursday, while the group’s annual House & Garden Tour, this year on Monona’s Tonyawatha Trail, is on Monday. Children and adults alike may enjoy Feast with the Beasts at Henry Vilas Zoo on Saturday. And Olbrich Botanical GardensRhapsody in Bloom benefit, Madison’s largest garden party, also is this Saturday.

The Alliant Energy Center welcomes the National Women’s Music Festival Thursday through Sunday. And the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society moves into its second week of Same Carriage, Fresh Horses with the programs Scaramouche and Souvenirs Friday through Sunday.

American Players Theatre begins its third play of the summer with Henry IV: The Making of the King on Friday. Also on Friday, Broom Street Theater kicks off For What It’s Worth and Verona Area Community Theater starts Brigadoon.

And in the visual arts realm, on Friday UW’s Design Gallery opens the MFA exhibition Harue Shimomoto and the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters unveils Amy Arntson and Bruce Severson’s side-by-side shows of landscapes. Saturday brings the opening of three exhibitions—Fabricated Realms, Cornucopia: Crazy and The Watergate Collective: New Order—at Overture Galleries.

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