by TJ Guese
Tom Watson, art professor, is a man of many artistic talents. He has worked with various media for more than 40 years, and now Columbia College is displaying that talent in a retrospective of his work. The show is titled, “In Search of the Real Tom Watson.”
"Safe" by Tom Watson. Photo by TJ Guese. Watson earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Harding University in Arkansas. After earning a graduate degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, he returned to Harding University where he taught for five years. When Watson heard that the University of Missouri was implementing a Master of Fine Arts program, he returned to Columbia and earned his second graduate degree.
Watson began teaching for Columbia College in 1971. “I see myself primarily as a teacher that does art,” he said.
During his early years, the “in” style was abstract expressionism. It wasn’t until Watson attended the University of Missouri that he found a more concrete format in drawing. One of Watson’s biggest inspirations was Thomas Hart Benton, a well-known painter from Missouri who painted people doing everyday things.
"Boy" by Tom Watson. Photo by TJ Guese.
Watson described the meanings behind the works exhibited in the retrospective. “Most of the paintings deal with interactions of life and reactions,” Watson said. “Safe” is a protest painting, depicting Lyndon Johnson as a fat cat making money from poor people through war bonds, he said. “Boundaries” is a piece of conceptual art that includes the frame as part of the piece, emphasizing the limitations put on art.
Other pieces are more personal. In 1950, when Watson was 11 years old, his older brother died in a car accident. “Barbed Wire” depicts a man with barbed wire running through his ears, representing Watson’s reaction to the phone call his mother received about the accident.
Watson said the use of animals in his work is associated with death. In addition, the left side of the paintings are related to his brother and thus also death.
“Boy,” a painting that depicts an African-American child sitting on a stoop, is one of Watson’s latest pieces. He also has works in ceramic and metal on display. Watson’s newest interests and projects focus on three-dimensional work.
“In Search of the Real Tom Watson” will be on display at the Larson Gallery in Brown Hall through Oct. 31.