Fred Tomaselli is a recent American contemporary artist still living today. From the James Cohan Gallery website, it reveals that Tomaselli was born in 1958 and spent his whole childhood in
Tomaselli’s life experience impacts the way he views and creates his art. In his childhood, he was influenced by his surroundings. Ann Landi from ARTNews states, after interviewing Tomaselli, it that, “growing up in suburban southern
Through Fred Tomaselli’s art, Tomaselli blends his ideal of nature and technology taken from his lifestyle into his method of creating art and molding it. Tomaselli views his life in two ways that shows the relationship between nature and technology and also the fault of utopian world. Also Tomaselli’s use of unorthodox materials shows both combination of nature and technology. Incorporating in to his paintings his ideas of how technology and nature are opposite force can still work together. It shows in his painting both his views on the subjects and also the impact it had on his life. In his painting, Big Bird, It shows the picture of nature as the foreground integrating with the background view of modern technology. In another painting, Doppelganger Effect, it uses the concept of nature and technology while most of the painting is created by modern technological materials in the interpretive view. Another painting of Tomaselli, Hangover, uses the concept of both. It integrates both technology and nature. The picture shows nature and something that does not look like nature, but something similar to complex and technological wiring. Tomaselli does not only use only conceptual ideas, plants and animal, but also the human form to show his idea. He show human forms such like the Organism in a way to portray the same idea that can affect the human mind too.
The painting, Big Bird by Fred Tomaselli, shows some of his idea of the balance of nature and technology. In the White Cube’s website, it stated that he created the painting in 2004 using mix media and resin on a wooden panel. It shows a beautiful design of the nature and some surreal details hidden in the background. Both all merged together revealing a beautiful drawing. The Big Bird, itself is a painting where the bird is out of proportions with the other objects and is the subject of the balance between nature and technology.
In the foreground of the painting, it shows a bird on a tree branch. The bird stands out the most in the painting with its mosaic texture except its legs. The tail feathers and the back of the neck and halfway down the back it is painted with the colors of Indian red, English red, light salmon, black, white, orange, orange red and aureoline yellow. On the crown or the top part of the head, it fades from the back of the neck into cadmium lemon, green and the shades of orange from the back. The beak is a mix of cadmium lemon and light orange. The wings are composed of the different shade of slate blue, light violet, white, spots of orange red, spots of crimson red, floral white ivory, and antique white. The belly of the bird has the same colors of white shades in the feather with splotches of blanched almond, light melon and light goldenrod. The crown of the bird and the tail feather gives an effect of tiny rays coming from it. The bird outshines the background and the branch. It is like a “dazzling jewel work, which used rich color to convey on impression of light and space” (Ball 123).
Its legs, which seem to be flat is the transition from the popped out image of the bird’s body into the flat surface of the scenery. The tree branch looks flat comparing to the bird. The leaves upon the tree branch look something similar to illustrated young oak leaves with blunted ends. Some of the leaves on the branch are in olive color darkening into black with a touch of a yellow color that is a split between gold and goldenrod and others have the similar colors but more in the color olive green dark turning into brown. Among the leaves, flowers bloom in the type similar to a Clematis Festoon Bonanza, mauve-blue flowers with yellow stamens, but illustrated in a way like daisies with the color of ultramarine blue and with a yellow center. Both the leaves and the flowers were connected to a branch that looks realistic having the texture revealed by the varies of shading of brown that varies from brown, brown ochre and sienna with a little bit of lighting with the use of light goldenrod, yellow, and melon yellow. The whole branch and its attachments are contradicting each other. The leaves turning brown or black represent autumn, while the bloomed flowers represent the spring. The branch show a hint of light which means it is in a place during the daylight. The background has a base of black decorated with white specks which could be depicted as snow or stars and things similar to snow flakes glowing in the dark. They come in shades orange, white, green, and red which could be stars. There is also a circular object towards the left of the bird’s neck that looks like wire spiral sun in the color of Mars yellow and orange red rays. It also contradicts with the base of the back ground in the same way as the tree branch. It shows that there is some form of light coming out of the darkness. It also shows contradiction because the branch is taken from the day light while the background shows nighttime. It adds to the picture some interstellar effect making the background surreal to the foreground and the leaves to the flower or the other way.
The painting would represent the wildness by only having the bird and the branch filled with autumn leaves and the spring flower with indications of light hitting on parts of the bird and the tree. With the background showing the night sky with dots and firework looking shapes represent the stars and a sun, Tomaselli included a certain sense of technology into the painting. The branch and its attachments indicate nature based on what it is. The bird itself shows nature and in a way shows technology with it. The actual bird itself is born from nature. Despite that fact, the bird existing in the painting not only shows mosaic textures but flexible strands or rays emanating from its body. It makes the bird part of the background as if the bird is part of the stars. The bird is of nature, but given the rays coming out of its body it seems that the bird might be a star. The background indirectly shows technology. The stars and astronomical objects seen in the sky derived from science which advances technology. Also, having the view of seeing the actual existence of the star blown out of proportion in the painting gives the impression of similar to the technology of the telescope. The bird on the foreground is also out of proportion compared to the wiry sun. It is how Gregory Volk stated that “his paintings are artificial devices that don’t pretend to be anything else; yet they are reality-bending objects in their own right” (Volk 80). The way he complied the painting, having the foreground be of daylight and the background of nighttime, it is he was “given full reign to such contradictions (Volk 80)” both by his unorthodox materials and his ideal. Not only has he showed the integration of nature and technology, he also uses his idea upon the things creating. Tomaselli uses resin which is an organic substance that from technological advancement can create plastic or furnishing. It comes from the nature but also the raw material of advancing technology.
His idea of balance between nature and technology was based on his reflection of “his own background in
He portrays it not only in the way that it is a visible concept toward the viewers’ eye, but also in an abstract and interpretive way. The abstract style of Tomaselli can be seen in his artwork, Doppelganger Effect , created in the same year as the first. It shows how the dizzying beauty and the dreams of romanticism have interpretation of the balance between nature and technology. It shows how Tomaselli thinks of doppelganger effect. It is the most interesting piece of art. From the White Cube’s website, Doppelganger Effect is created from photo-collage, pills, leaves, acrylic and resin on panels. Doppelganger Effect is actually related to the strings of bead going in different direction in the wooden panel. It shows multiple strings of bead like objects and it being copied in different location as a way to showing how the nature takes effect in this work.
The background of the painting is black. It might be relative to the idea space. The main object and the foreground of the painting are the lines or the strings that hung from the top of the painting down to the bottom. On each of the strings it is filled with beads or rock shaped objects. Each line of beads had at least one colors in its various shade. In the beads it alternate in different order none the same. There is the color of red, blue or violet, orange, and others more. There are some with the same colors all throughout the string like the beaded maroon color string about the sixth string inward from the left side of the painting or the floral white beads that look a lot like strings of pearls in various location of the artwork. They are very tiny and hard to tell based on how they are spread out.
It shows the doppelganger effect in a perspective view directly looking inwards to the center. Near the edge the strands of beads are spread out the colors in each strand can be seen. As it draws towards the center, strands intertwined with each other creating a cluster effect making the visibility of what is further in hard to see. It is like it is wild vines uncontrollable and unclear. The strings might even be connected based on some repeated color pattern, but that is unclear due to the fact that the ends and beginnings are off of the panel. One might never predict what is in the cluster.
The idea of balance between nature and technology can be interpreted. The title shows the nature within the art work. Doppelganger Effect is defined as a double that haunts its fleshly counterpart. In nature, nothing is definite and there are copies of the same things. Some might look exactly like the same things though they are not. It shows the nature, even though it can duplicate the same thing over and over again, it is located in places different from where one can find the first one. It shows in nature that the clustering strands might represent the attachment between the original and the duplicate. Its patterns show a different “hypnotic pattern (“Fred Tomaselli: Indianapolis Museum of Art) emerging the “Eastern mandalas, which are some of the earliest human maps of inner space” (“Fred Tomaselli: Indianapolis Museum of Art), which can be see in the Gravity’s Rainbow, another one of Tomaselli’s work. It shows the technological looks of it. The idea of having many strands of beads clustered together can be interpreted as wiring, a technological advancement of human creations. Each strand of bead can be like a wire that attach to something and lead to another. Also it can be interpreted as the technology of graphic design and recreation. Modern technology had advanced to the point by using machines like computer to duplicates the image of objects and creates another same in appearance that there is no difference between the original and the copy. Not only is the picture displays technological relations, but also the unorthodox material using pills. Pills, themselves, are created from the science that creates modern technology. Having “layered over the real pills are garlands of painted pills (Emerling)”, it is “deceiving from a distance and rather mesmerizing up close (Emerling)”. It provides “mind-altering experiences and the unreliability of perception” similar to how the dreams romanticism are. They are all focusing around overstepping the boundaries of order and into creativity and imagination. It show “a spiritualized nature, intimations of vastness (Volk)” in type of “psychic or worldly (Volk).”
Another one of Tomaselli’s artwork that shows both nature and technology and also the overstepped boundaries of order in Romanticism is Hang Over created by Tomaselli in 2005. It looks like Tomaselli use some of the same techniques from his previous works in this piece and also links with the human themed creation. From the John Cohan Gallery’s website, Hang Over is created from leaves, pills, acrylic, and resin on wood panel. The title, Hang Over, express the main subject as the tree, showing its balance between nature and technology.
The painting is a close up scenery of a tree with fields of flower surrounding it. The background is black. The trunk has the same colors as the branch in the artwork, Big Bird. The difference between the tree and normal trees is that it is bare of all its leaves. The places where its leaves are located are replaced by strings of beads hanging lazily on the tree with various colored beads on each string. It also dangled stings of hands, butterflies and other unusual objects. It might not have leaves to begin with. The might be a possibility that the leaves had wilted off. The field of flowers has varieties of flowers. Some have the shape of stars, some similar to dandelions and others similar to everyday wildflowers varying in color. All along with the grass, they have wavy stems. It seems like the wavy like stems are similar to the plants in the water such as seaweed. Among the wavy flowers, there are these wild leaf plants. The leaves on the plants were in shades of dark yellow going into mud color with a little bit of green in it. It shows the contradiction of season and also the regions of growth between the leaf plant and the flowers. In the scenery, it looks like the plants on the ground are grown wildly and untamed.
The artwork shows both the balance of nature and technology through the unorthodox materials and the theme of the painting. Different from the other artwork described here, this art work use leaves and pills to creating this work along with collages similar to the others. The leaves are from nature while the pills are from creation. The scenery is of nature. The strings of beads and unusual objects are of technology. They could be interpreted as overhanging wirings. It can also represent the flow of humans linking toward high jumps of modern technology. It is like there path advancing above other creators and their discovery in advancing. The strange objects like the strings of hands and the butterflies among the numerous strings of beads have a connection toward the human mind with the use of drugs.
In its own way, it connects toward the Romantic style and other reoccurring themes of the past painting by the use of the untamed nature. The emphases on nature, due to the untamed wildness of the nature, seem to lean more toward into the Edenic nature. By how the flowers and grass grow, it is not tampered by any human, since
The art shows an “even more artificial world” (
Another one of Tomaselli’s artwork, Organism, shows the some of the same concept as Hang Over. In the website titled Brian Wilson: An Art Exhibition, it stated that is the artwork, Organism, created from resin and mixed media. Its foreground looks like a human figure falling down. It is comprise with a number of color that is hard to identify. Its subject is the human falling, but instead of titling it “human”, Tomaselli titled it as Organism because he used tons of different pictures of creatures and things to build it. It is also his idea of expressing that the human linking with nature and that human are no different from nature or its inhabitants.
In the foreground, it looks like all the colors tend to make the human figure show the something similar to anatomy. The colors mostly vary in different shade of blue, orange, and red, which are the normal colors that show the human anatomy. The use of colored pieces of collages and different types of media help it create the veins and organs making the human in the work more human like. As the human figure falls down, there is no head to the figure. It is as if the head vanished into the scenery as if it is part of the scenery itself. By whole the body is being positioned, it also seems like the body can’t control its fall. It shows the person in despair trying to maintain its balance while falling down.
A little bit below the figure, it shows the scenery. There are different shaped polygons with centers similar to kaleidoscope images and some have hands in them. In the background, there are strands of different things and animals lined up in their type categories and diagonally going behind the human figure. If it is said to be the effects that show a perspective view, it looks like a human is falling down an abyss and the polygon shape could be the top view of columns sticking out of the abyss and the strands might be the side view of the columns.
The artwork portrays the nature and technology in it and on it. It revolves around the ideas of drugs. Having a human in the work shows that Tomaselli include that human beings are part of nature. It also makes human infinite same as nature by the continuous layering pictures on top of each other. The human also represents technology. The existence of the human created the drugs, which made them fall in to a dimension of artificial reality. The way human advances in technology and how they use it links nature to technology. Nature created human beings and Human beings created technology that links to drugs. In the artwork, it shows that the human figure without the head. It is, in some technical way, it is linked with technology, human, and drugs. The human figure is like a drug induced person that took drugs created by the world, where the people have advancing technology without realizing the dangers of some of the things they created. The drug induced people tend to think of alternate realities which do not physically exist, but in their mentality it does and is as real as the reality the whole world is living, suffering, or surviving in. They believe it to be their utopia and
The topic of Tomaselli’s work is sometimes controversial. It “raises the question of whether the act of ingesting chemicals and the visual pleasure of looking at are parallel experience transporting one into another reality” (Tilton). It is not showing that he is approved of abusing and overdosing drugs to a person with the intent of it being a utopia. He stated that he has “given people a way to use drugs that’s not to kill them (Sheet 182).” Tomaselli used them for his purpose of portraying his idea while having the pills “encapsulated in tamper proof resin containers (Sheet 182).” He wants people to comprehend the point behind his artwork. He “speaks very intently of cultural and artistic ideas and tosses out wry observation trying to describe what he thinks about (Sheet 180).” Though people only look at the front and only view the beautifully composed art work, it is “fine with him (Sheet 180)” that they had an alternative meaning in the depth of the painting itself.
Tomaselli’s work is “a massive and sublime collage”(“Fred Tomaselli: Indianapolis Museum of Art) where “the drugs he employs in his art no longer reach the brain through the mouth and the blood stream, but through the eyes” (Volk). He shows that the creation of dugs linking to art because “both are seen as transportation mediums and window into another conscious” (Mossy). Both are similar as a window to something. Art is the window into the eye sight, while drugs are the window into the mind. In Volk’s article, he stated in agreement that people “could look at drugs as possible delivering transcendence or relief from pain or pleasure (Sheet 180).”
Tomaselli’s paintings follow some order in the pictures viewed in the paper. Between of his painting, Big Bird, Doppelganger Effect, Hangover, and Organism, it show the growth of his idea of drugs coming forward through the balance of nature and technology that he integrated in and use to create it . It looks that like between Big Bird and Doppelganger Effect, they only show one of the balances of nature and technology forwardly while the other is in the background or hiding. It show the bird being from nature while the astrological sky in the back and the multiple strands of beads show the technological pills and advancing technological equipments while the meaning is in the background or depths of it. Hangover and Organism on the other hand show both at the same time. Hangover had the tree belonging to nature while the loops of beads on its branches from technology itself. Organism had the human being the nature and technology with the background explaining the technological effect and is also created by collages made out of picture relating to the nature.
Tomaselli provide in his painting “the toxicity of beauty” (Emerling) with the use of technology and nature related materials. With it, he shows the “contest of nature and technology”. The use of unorthodox materials allows him to cover both the main themes of the balance of nature and technology and utopianism. He brought back old ideas of Romanticism with the modern touch. He is acting upon something similar to how “an anonymous writer on artist technique in 1810 said cautiously: ‘Chemistry is to painting what anatomy is to drawing’ (Ball 11).” Similar he mixed his painting with additional chemistry of pills and drugs and creating collages and work of art that intoxicate them through the mind with nature and technology being the theme of it. It is an integration the past and the coming future, creating modern art out of the reoccurring themes that once created the artistic culture to portray the modern teachings of the relations between human life and drug addiction, that allowed the recent contemporary artist to be famous and coming up with new ways to portray the old with a touch of modern human enlightenment.
Ball, Philip. Bright Earth: Art and the Intervention of Color.
Philip Ball shows the interaction between art, chemistry, and technology and how throughout the ages it took part in the cultural painting that many adore. In time, Chemistry use to create colors for paint to differentiate the actual science that people want to create. It does not have any relation with Tomaselli, but it introduced the use of colors and testing similar to Tomaselli’s unorthodox methods and tools.
Bayles, Jennifer. “Acquisitions: Fred Tomaselli “.
It is a review on one of Tomaselli’s work, Echo, Wow and Flutter, 2000. It briefly describes the how it looks. It gives a little background information on the style.
Brian Wilson: An Art Exhibition. guardian.co.uk. (no date) <http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/gallery/2007/may/25/1?picture=329929150>
It is an exhibition that occurred on May 26 to September 23 of 2007. It gives a little detail about the painting, Organism. (picture)
Emerling, Susan. “Artist’s little helper”. Salon.com/People. (
It is a review on one of Tomaselli’s show on
“Fred Tomaselli.” James Cohan Gallery. No date < http://www.jamescohan.com/artists/fred-tomaselli/bio/ >
It is a biography or a time line of Tomaselli and his work. It tells of his birth and his education .
“Fred Tomaselli”. White Cube. (2005) accessed on
It also shows the timeline of Tomaselli’s works. It gives a background history and listed the materials that he tends to use. It also provides some proofs of his ideas being the balance between technology, nature, and utopia. (picture information only and is defined as “White Cube”)
It is a review of one of Tomaselli’s work that portrays the terror of drugs. Though people might mistaken it as a normal art piece he created, he also integrate his feeling into it.
Hampson, Thomas. “Romanticism.” I Hear
It is some background history of romanticism. It also defines the meaning of it. Romanticism is the adoration of nature and the heightening creative thoughts of crossing the boundaries of normal existence.
Herbert, Martin. “How Much Paint Does It Takes To Make A Painting?” Modern Painter. 17. 3 (Autumn 2004)
It shows different peoples’ way of art. It describe in details of how it looks. It includes Tomaselli way of art and what he model after.
Landi, Ann. “Painter and their Role Models”. ARTNews. 104. 11 (Summer 2005): 132-135
It tells of how artist and their inspiration toward the arts. It shows how it change the artists view art. It inspires them to look and create art in their view.
Martin, Chris. “Fred Tomaselli: in conversation with Chris Martin”.
It is an interview between Chris Martin also known as “Rail” and Tomaselli. It gives a biography of Tomaselli’s life. It also reveals the reason why he uses drugs in his art.
Mossy, Joan. “The Beautiful Beguiling Art if Fred Tomaselli”. (2001) < http://pdr.autono.net/joanie/Tomaselli.html >
It is not an interview, but a talk show about Tomaselli. It views his art in Mossy’s point of view. She connects his unorthodox materials with the affects of the body.
Nadel, Dan. “
It is an interview or a conversation between Tomaselli, Nadel, and Hancock They are chatting about each artist’s life in the present in the interview. It is more like a social chat than actually answering questions of the interview.
Tilton Jack. “Fred Tomaselli”. Jack Tilton. No date. < http://www.artseensoho.com/Art/TILTON/tomaselli97/tomaselliinfo.html>
It shows some idea Tomaselli incorporates into his work. It show some possibility of the purpose behind use of drugs in the art work and it’s significance between nature and technology.
Sheet, Hilarie M. “Prescription for Beauty” ARTNews. 98. 10 (November 1999) 180-182
It is an interview in an article form describing Tomaselli’s life and way of art. He describe his art and the material he uses and why. It reveals his thoughts of how his art is to be viewed.
Volk, Gregory. “Transportive Visions.” Art in
It’s a review that describes his painting and also involves some part of his debut into the art world.
It is an interview about Tomaselli’s art style. It also talks about the James Cohan Gallery exhibition.
Ayers, Robert. “The AI Interview: Fred Tomaselli”. Artinfo.
It is interview between AI and Fred Tomaselli regarding his art style. Tomaselli answers the questions given by the AI. It is relevant to Martain’s questions, but it is more about his paintings than his life.
“Fred Tomaselli: Monsters of
It is a review on one of Tomaselli’s work. It show how it was put together, which relate to the artwork, Big Bird.
Kino, Carol. “Fred Tomaselli at James Cohan”. Art in
It is another review that tells the use of Tomaselli’s unorthodox materials and the creation of his collages. He shows the version of the human body being created. He uses the same materials for nature with this composition and the concept of eternity.
Patterson, Kerry. “Fred Tomaselli: Monsters of
It is a review on another exhibition of Tomaselli’s work in that is up until
Spears, Dorothy. “Where Art Imitates Gardening (and Vice Versa)”. The New York Times.
He tells of how a person’s personal reference can assist the profession that the person does. He express that his is gardening.