Meet the artist: Thomas Cavaness

Meet the artist: Thomas Cavaness

It all started with the bedroom art shows.

Thomas Cavaness was just a kid when he started his lifelong art career, carefully arranging his paintings and drawings in his bedroom to sell to his family and friends for a quarter a piece.

Since then, Cavaness’ works have been showcased in public and private collections internationally and across the United States. Beginning this Thursday, June 16, six of Cavaness’ paintings will be featured in the SEAD Gallery’s “Abstract Expressionist Texas” exhibit, also featuring artist John Krajicek, and will stay in the gallery until August 13.

Although the two artists’ works fall under the category of “abstract expressionism,” Cavaness says not to expect their art to be too similar.

“That’s the great thing about abstract expressionism. While it’s non-objective, it’s usually deeply personal to the individual artist,” Cavaness said. “We’re all enveloped under this one umbrella of abstract expressionism, [but] the only thing we have in common is that we have nothing in common, with this or any other kind of style.”

Pioneered and advanced by artists like Jackson Pollock, William DeKooning, and Clyfford Still, the abstract expressionist art movement began in post World War II America, when a collective of artists sought to create with deeper substance and impact than the realist paintings of their predecessors. Cavaness said he discovered abstract expressionism by accident when he walked by the Clyfford Still Museum one day while attending college in Colorado.

“In my mind, I was like, ‘what pompous, arrogant person is making their own museum?’,” Cavaness said. “[So] I researched Clyfford Still, and he has become such an influence on my art.”

Cavaness said many of the pieces he created for the SEAD Gallery show are about verticality, a theme he learned from Clyfford Still.

“When were alive we’re upright, we’re vertical; when we’re dead we’re horizontal,” Cavaness said. “So I typically like vertical pieces and things that go in a vertical direction. In a non-objective work I think it just creates its own theme, its own figure, and I think that’s interesting.”

Describing his style as non-objective, Cavaness creates his pieces to be about color, about the medium itself, rather than about representing real-world objects. He relates his work to that of Pollock and Rothko, because their work wasn’t intended to represent anything in the real world.

“I’m not interested in documenting reality. I’m interested in creating an alternative reality,” Cavaness said. “That’s why I paint so big, because it makes [a painting] its own environment, and I think that’s important. If you can become a part of that as a viewer and relate to it that way, that’s important.”

When he paints, Cavaness usually does so alone and at night, letting the paint dictate what happens on the canvas. He said that in the end, his work is about color itself. He choses not to mix paint colors when painting.

“We live in a time where there are literally thousands of different tubes of paint that we can choose from, [so] I don’t see a reason to mix paint when what is available to us as an artists today is an advancement on what had been available to artists a hundred years ago,” Cavaness said. “So in a way I’m document what the 21st century is, I’m documenting what pigments we have, I’m documenting what is available and what is trending and what is in fashion.

Cavaness said that most of his color inspiration comes from fashion and home décor because that’s what’s familiar to people.

“If we see some familiarity in something that’s foreign, we’ll be more likely to associate ourselves with it or connect with it,” Cavaness said. “So I think color is important because it’s what we have, and we’ve gotten to the point as a species that we can create so many different things, and I think that’s incredible.”

Cavaness’ paintings will be featured in the SEAD Gallery’s “Abstract Expressionist Texas” exhibit from June 16 to August 13. The show also features artist John Krajicek, who you can learn more about next week!