I’d started to say that, as usual before Tom’s, I was uncharacteristically speechless. No. It is that there are no easy, ready things to say. This is painting (and, and) beyond words and language. Always beautiful, sometimes pretty; funny, dark, obscene, spiritual, gross. Enigmatic, but a mine for a psychoanalyst. I choke on the word “surrealism”, but in the best of that, not weird for its own sake, Tom gives a path or window or pointer to our sub-conscious or soul, through his.
Michael Bulka, 8/2010
When I look at TT’s paintings I know I am taking one journey– his. It is as singular as a fingerprint and only like itself. Tom is over there in Indiana in this half-world blur of the Urban and the Rural — the sacred and the profane– and he whips together classic figuration, comics, porn and heartfelt Americaness like a modern day shaman. He stays out of the mix– stubbornly hacking away his own path through his own field– I cannot think of an artist that I admire more. I remember fondly the stories about ‘Uncle Freddy’s’ the gallery Tom was the front-man for all of those years ago in Hammond. One must love a gallery that serves Moonshine at its openings. I once saw the Uncle Freddy booth at the Chicago Art fair– what a treat!– It was full of Tom’s signature serious lunacy– Art that informed one that going out to play was serious work. Tom’s work often evokes laughter and tears in the same picture. He knows us — his work is about us — the flawed human constructs that strut about creating grace and calamity in equal measure. TT is one of those artists of rare human resonance– and great seriousness that the human comedy must be grateful for. His is a thorough kind of greatness.
Tony Fitzpatrick, 8/2010
Design has a hard row to hoe in the fine art world. It now refers to functionality and furniture, but once heralded a death of excess and an egalitarian future of visual music and applied imagination. Lari Pitman turned this self-denying modernity against itself with his post-Cubist-Futurist-Constructivist eye-candy flowcharts, and Torluemke brings a similar sumptuous sugar-vomit sensibility to the suggestive textures and crevices of Surrealism, nauseously multiplied in a dazzling Rococo prism of Technicolor fever dreams.
Albert Stabler, 8/2010
I don’t think I ever really met Tom. We just started talking one day at an opening reception, and I immediately felt like I knew him my entire life. He painted a portrait of me one time, and while he painted the portrait I asked him, “Do you get a sense of the sitters’ identities as you paint their likenesses?” He replied in the affirmative and then told me more true things about myself than I have ever heard before; I still think about his comments and smile. In Tom’s work, I see someone who can do it all, and who blends styles, references, media in an effortless manner. I sense vulnerability and utmost confidence simultaneously in his creations. I worry about him sometimes because I care so much about him and feel like his relentless energy and protean talents will consume him. At the same time, I know that whatever happens in this world, Tom will keep making things that reflect an ability to blend everything together in a way that transcends time while including it as an aspect of his art. The history of art, the history of design and illustration, his personal history will all continue to unfold from one piece to the next through his remarkable filter, and I personally am comforted by the idea that each day he will have something new for us all to think about.
Gregg Hertzlieb, 8/2010
I know Tom Torluemke only through his art. And what work! It drives me want to get to know him — I have seriously considered flying from Europe to Indiana just to meet him, due to the magnetism of his paintings. He has chosen to live in a place much of the art world undoubtedly sees as the middle-of-nowhere, otherwise he would certainly be more well-known. (His drive to swim against the flow and to experience peripheries is not strange to me, something which I share with him in addition to the use of sign-painters’ enamel.) His Heimat underlines one of Torluemke’s many strengths as an artist, beyond his notable technical ability and visual inventiveness: his idiosyncrasy, in the best sense of the word. From the sculpture Self-Portrait to the painting On the Couch to the installation American Eye Pull-Up Bar, Torluemke is thoroughly himself and thoroughly human.
Mark Staff Brandl, 8/2010
Tom’s a watcher. He’s perceptive. He sees it all. He watches others. He watches life. He watches himself. These layers of observation pile up upon themselves in his art. Sometimes contradictory, or at least not usually harmonious, these layers interact to reveal Tom the Watcher as well as Tom the Self and Tom the Artist. Make no mistake, he is a complex man. He looks at his world, its intrinsic relationships and his connection to all the parts. The calm of his persona underlies the cacophony of his imagery. Knowing his art first, I was surprised to meet an artist so complete, positive, focused and tranquil. Tom’s art is a cathartic journey into his personal, and not always pleasant, history. Its revelation enables Tom to be the complete and loving person he is. And it enables us to touch the rich thread that unites us all.
Paul Klein, 8/2010
Torluemke’s works all hit me as composite journeys/ places and thoughts that didn’t previously exist and may not again ever in the same way/ the destinations, though, seem to end in very personal truths and somehow always tangible beauties that go beyond the original thought/ shared journeys …shared beauties.
Gordon Ligocki, 8/2010
(a loose interpretation of Tom’s experience in the Canadian wilderness)
I was pulling up my pants. Zipping up my fly.
It felt like I had been holding it in for three years.
When you get into the wilderness and realize that you can finally relieve yourself, at first it seems a little dirty, a little rude, that your first introduction into the realms of nature should be to immediately pee on a tree. But there I was, peeing on a tree. Or was it a shrub? Maybe it’s poison oak. Shit! Was I standing in poison oak!? Is Canadian poison oak different than poison oak in the states? Was does that stuff do to you, anyway? Oh well, I’m sure I’m fine. I guess.
I took a look around and realized that the rest of my pals had left me behind and headed back towards the lake, their laughter trailing behind them and leaving me an odd spectator to a scene of pure wilderness. Before me the lake stretched out in deep olive and indigo hues. Purple shrubs and calico pines poked at the shoreline, and thousands of circular rocks covered the sandy banks like stubble on the face of an old man. I found a place to set up my gear; a small folding stool, a few brushes, pencils, a jar for water, a box of watercolors, and a pad of paper. I sat down to record the scene unfolding before me. I took a few deep breaths. What a beautiful place. Now, if these fucking mosquitoes would leave me alone I might be able to make a few paintings. I love nature but, ..Jesus, these mosquitoes are huge! Can you believe these things?
Finally I got started and as my brush glided over the paper what was left behind was a scarlet streak; a blood red line in the paper that marked the setting of the sun and the severing of my ties to the society I was leaving behind for a few days. In came the goldenrod grasses, up came the olive tree trunks, dappled with deep mossy tones and then a spattering of violet for the stones below, nestled between the rotting carcasses of aspen and pine. My friends had moved down the lakeshore, and I sat and watched as the sun dipped like a giant cookie into the milky blue-black of the lake. Behind me, in the rat race world of quick fixes and media mayhem, there are people trained for TV. They are blinking in the blinding light of a television screen, finding that to be serene. But as I blink my eyes I am a camera whose shutter blinks open and closed again, letting in all of the beauty of the surrounding world and then down through my fingertips. I am the vehicle through which the scenes pass and digest in my creative gullet. And where these camera images race and divide in my head is only up to me. How I will be interpreted in time, let that be a mystery to me. For now, I am only this creator, a vehicle of something greater.
Dolan Geiman, 8/2010