Empathy is Learned by Imagining You Can Be Something Else – Thomas Thoune, 2019 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship

Categories: Blog
By Michael Solender
ASC 2019 Creative Renewal Fellowship recipient Thomas Thoune (visual art). Photo by Nancy Pierce.

After more than 20 years as a textile designer with a fine art practice, Thomas Thoune’s career experienced an abrupt shift when a stroke he suffered in 2014 severely curtailed the detailed motor skills he relied upon to create his work.

Accompanying the physical shift his body experienced was a philosophical and mental rebirth of sorts that opened entirely new creative avenues to Thoune, leading him to work with new mediums and approach his artistry in an entirely different way.

“The physical challenge informs my practice,” said Thoune. “I’m less interested in what I thought people wanted to see in me and more focused on what I want to say. Coming from a decorative background, it’s very anodyne and safe and pretty. What I have been working on since my stroke are issues of tolerance and gender.”

Thoune is a painter, sculptor and mixed media artist whose recent work has been featured at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts (Wrestling the Angel: A Century of Artists Reckoning with Religion), McColl Center for Art + Innovation’s 20th anniversary alumni show and Goodyear Arts.

Thoune says he looks for ways his work can have meaning beyond simply being beautiful and pleasing to the eye. His papal picado installation at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s City Center Projective Eye Gallery, created monograms out of paper covering the windows and depicted his notion of imagery behind same-sex couples’ marriages.

“They were initials of the couples,” said Thoune “I focused on the beauty of the monograms, but also on the subversive or underneath idea that those represent something else.”

Thoune likes to explore the concept of being something “other” through his work.

“Empathy is learned by imagining you can be something else,” he says. “Since my stroke, I’ve found I have more to say with my work.”

Thoune will use his 2019 ASC Creative Renewal Fellowship to expand his skills working in the medium of paper clay – where recycled paper is mixed with clay allowing for easier manipulation and shaping. Thoune plans to work with Christina Córdova, an expert in the field, while revisiting religious sites in Spain that impressed him on a previous visit.

“There is a lot to say about my body with my art,” said Thoune “The human form is making more of a presence in my story about post stroke rehabilitation. Exposure to Córdova’s teaching is calling me. I will use what I learn to bring unfired work to its fired potential. I anticipate larger work would become within my grasp. The imagery I will create will describe what it’s like in my body since my stroke.”

One thing Thoune especially wants people to know about his work since his stroke is that he doesn’t take happiness in his life for granted.

“I hope I can inspire others to get more joy in their life,” said Thoune. “I want people to figure that out.”