Art, // July 5, 2015
Tom Block — ARTIST
Interview with artist Tom Block —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am Tom Block, a visual artist, author and playwright whose work is collected under something I call “Prophetic Activist Art.” This is a model of using art as a means for social transformation, which grew out of my various activist projects. I published this model as a manifesto/handbook last year “Prophetic Activist Art: Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution” and will be teaching the model at the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, sponsored by Dixon Place (NY).
I have painted hundreds of paintings, which have been exhibited around the United States, Canada and Europe; published five books and had plays read and produced in New York and Washington D.C. Additionally, I have spoken about my art and ideas at universities, conferences and galleries in the United States, Canada, Europe, Turkey and the Middle East.
2. Why art?
Indeed. Is there a higher calling than to mimic the original act (creation)?
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
Quite late, actually. I “fell into” art at 26, through a series of petty misfortunes and dead-ends. I had no art background (one family member even exclaimed: “You couldn’t even draw a stick figure when you were a child!”), but once I had put charcoal to paper, I was hooked. I haven’t stopped painting and drawing since.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
I like doing figurative work of heroes and anti-heroes, using either acrylic, ink and collage or thickly painted oil. I also have based my visual exploration of the world in blind-contour sketches, having done thousands of them over the years (and as recently as yesterday evening).
5. How do you work and approach your subject?
Like a Tasmanian Devil fighting dog. It’s slash and burn and build and do it over and over again until abandonment declares the work “finished.”
6. What are your favorite art work(s), artist(s)?
Matthias Grünewald’s “Crucifixion,” of course. Everything by Vincent Van Gogh. Some Willem de Kooning; the Weimar German Expressionists; Ludwig Meidner.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
8. What do you like about your work?
Thick, icing paint and the Expressionistic rendering of the figure. I’ll get there, if I live long enough.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
Get a law degree.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Running the Institute of Prophetic Activism, modeled on Bauhaus.