Thomas Walton brings art to Cabrini

By Janene Gibbons
October 2, 2008

Megan Pellegrino

Cabrini’s fine arts department, chaired by Dr. Adeline Bethany, hosted an art exhibit this past Sunday, Sept.14 where the public and Cabrini community could come meet and greet 28-year-old artist Tom Walton.

The event was held in the art gallery on the second floor of the Holy Spirit Library. Nine of Walton’s original works, consisting of mostly paintings, were displayed. Walton’s mother and best friend Dave Campbell also joined the mix of guests in attendance.

Walton was offered the opportunity to come to Cabrini from assistant professor of studio art Nick Jacques when asked why he picked Walton out of all the young and upcoming artists out there Jacques said, “Tom was a year behind me in the graduate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I picked him because his work really reflects the complexities of the human psyche.”

“His use of color in opaque and translucent layers of paint adds a visual and textural variety to the work. It is the kind of work that can really bring our gallery space to life in a way that the whole community can enjoy,” Jacques said.

When describing his individual style, Walton said that he likes painting from observation and trying to capture an honest emotion. “My process is very intuitive. I don’t have an immediate agenda. It’s sort of a process of discovery.”

Sarah Playdell, Walton’s mother, said, “It was a no brainer that he was going to be an artist of some kind. When he was 3 years old he use to sit on the curb and examine sticks and stones. I didn’t realize anything unusual about it until I had more kids. They just walked down sidewalks.”

Walton said that since the last art movement was abstract modernism, if you go to a big city such as New York, you are more likely see work that is satirical and ironic. His work however is more representational and he knew that would create a lot of “static.”

“I think I paint in a sculptal fashion. I find myself being concerned with the placement of forms rather than rendering,” Walton said.

He went on to explain that rendering is to describe and focus on the details and the shifting of minute tones rather than what he does, which is to focus on the relationship to space.

Walton, now a resident of Philadelphia, did not always desire and strive to be a painter. He used to dream of being a cartoonist and from seventh grade to high school was inspired by Bill Watterson who drew Walton’s favorite comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Painting entered Walton’s life in a serious way at the tender age of 16, when he took part in a work/internship program in high school and was granted the opportunity to work with artist Carol Pittore for two weeks.

In those two weeks, Walton drew a model for a total of 80 hours and completed an hour- long portrait each night. He ended up staying with Carol for the whole summer where he became very obsessive and drew every day.

Walton’s obsessive work ethic resulted in a breakdown that occurred when he was off at boarding school in England. The then 16-year-old took a year off before heading to the Rhode Island School of Design.

There Walton spent more time defending his work than anything but by the time he reached the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for graduate school he made the break- though realization that his work was expressive not conservative, as he had previously had thought.

Tony Girolo, adjunct professor of studio art who also attended the academy, said of Walton style and his work, “He’s a really good figurative painter. There’s a psychological aspect like a mood that comes from the academy but also transcends it.”

When talking about trying to capture the meaning behind his paintings, Walton said, “I wouldn’t illustrate it. I would just find it out as I painted it. My process is very intuitive.”

The more time that passes, the easier Walton finds it to be able to stand back from his work and tell his audience what he was trying to capture in regards to the emotions of the people he’s drawing and the objects that represent something deeper such as a themed moment in time.

One painting, of Walton’s little brother sitting on a chair in his house with a sports bag at his feet represents coming of age, starting high school and being at home but still having that sense of leaving.

Another of a chair with two sneakers on it up high and a pair of high heels off to the side on the floor were what he themed “missteps” representing a lack of communication in the relationship because the shoes are on two separate planes.

“Some paintings end up being like novels and some end up being like poems, so I either keep the one or keep pushing harder for the other,” Walton said.

Walton’s art exhibit is scheduled to be displayed in the art gallery on the second floor of the library until Oct. 12.

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Janene Gibbons

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