The School of Art hosted Thomas Lawson this week for the latest installment of its Monday Night Lecture Series.
During his talk, the artist discussed the evolution of his creative practice throughout his career and the variety of influences he draws on in his work, which he described as influenced by his “day-to-day experiences.” Professor Anoka Faruqee ’94, who introduced Lawson, added that the artist — who is also the dean of the California Institute of the Arts’ School of Art — is a “prolific writer” as well as painter.
“I am interested in the way in which imagery moves and survives through time,” Lawson explained.
Born in Scotland, Lawson now lives in Los Angeles. For a portion of his career, the artist lived in New York, a city Lawson said he selected because of his desire for new experiences to fuel his art. At first, Lawson added, he was sentimental about leaving Scotland, noting that his first paintings completed after moving to the United States often featured nostalgic images of his native country, such as bagpipe players.
As he adjusted to his new life in New York, however, Lawson said that he began to find sources of inspiration in his adopted city. He said that he became very interested in everyday things like “afternoon papers,” and began to make works that combined figurative paintings and photographs with tabloid-esque titles.
“New York had a lively but edgy presence, reflected in the newspaper culture,” Lawson said.
After moving to New York, Lawson said he also began to travel frequently around the U.S. As a result of his travels, Lawson explained, postcards became a particular source of inspiration. On these trips, Lawson said that he would collect postcards to send or to keep as mementos of the places he visited. In particular, the artist said that he became attracted to postcards commemorating lesser-known sites.
In addition to discussing his career as an artist, Lawson talked to attendees about his time as the dean of the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts. He said that he is influenced by the work of his students, who have, for example, helped him incorporate a more vibrant color palette into his own pieces.
“As dean, I get to be among art and ‘art-thinking’ all day, and I am influenced by my students,” Lawson said.
Amy Howden-Chapman, one of the talk’s attendees, said that she found the “span” of Lawson’s career particularly interesting, especially with regards to his move from New York to Los Angeles.
Sara Cwynar ART ’16, a second-year photography student in the School of Art who also attended Lawson’s talk, said she appreciated the artist’s ability to bring together theory and practice, adding that she liked how Lawson was able to discuss theory in the context of his own body of work.
The Yale School of Art was founded in 1869.