Veronica Sines interviews Thomas Huston

Thomas Huston is a first year MFA candidate in the SAIC Print Media Department.

The interview recording was lost before it could be transcribed due in part to flawed app design (and the interviewer’s negligence). The following are Thomas’s generously provided written responses to the guiding questions after the conversation had taken place.

This notion of ephemeral reality and the subsequent attempt to capture it parallels some of the themes discussed and acts as a metaphor for the duplications/repetitions/and re- interpretations found in Thomas’s work.

Can you describe your practice?

My practice is situated around contemporary image culture–the image saturated world in which we exist–where images are endlessly reproducible and malleable. How does this nearly infinite access to images affect their “truth,” power, and meaning? More and more I’ve been trying to complicate my own understanding of this “truth” value in images, working between many mediums to create situations in which images and objects begin to slip in their reference to each other. These situations created in my studio then extend out into my experience in the world, where plastic bags drift through the city, getting caught in the branches of trees, creating a network of visual experiences that are distinct yet reference a larger, repeated trope.

How has your practice evolved since you began the mfa program in the fall?

When I came to SAIC I was making work that was conceived with a determined end result in mind. Once I had created the system to generate the work, I could output it without having to make many subjective, personal decisions. Since starting grad school I have challenged myself to make work that is intuitive and undetermined. Working through, instead of towards, has allowed me to make decisions that surprise myself, create situations that I do not fully understand.

How does your knowledge of art history affect your approach to art making?

I have a BA in Art History, which as an artist I’ve found to be both a blessing and a curse. I have a wealth of references and sources, but at the same time I think it can be easy to get caught up in “what’s been done.” I try to be very careful about how I appropriate art historical content, using a light touch when I do so it doesn’t become a crutch to support the work.

Could you talk about your interest in patters/repetition/reproduction?

I question whether repetition and patterns of reproduction increase meaning or diminish it. When you repeat something enough times, does it become an empty sign?
I have been drawn to Praxiteles’ Aphrodite through this inquiry. We know the sculpture through its many copies, none of which are exact, many of which are fragmentary, and all of which signify without a specific referent. I am becoming more excited by chance repetition, an almost surrealist encounter of an image or object that unintentionally refers back to an unrelated experience, creating its own meaning.

Which artists have had the biggest influence on you?

Some artists I’ve been looking at and inspired by recently are Camille Henrot, Trisha Donnelly, Corin Hewitt, Francis Alÿs, and Alex Chitty (Printmedia Faculty), among many others.

What’s next??

This summer I’m excited to get a bit of distance from the critical academia of grad school and just spend a few months making and playing in my studio. I also plan to start working on a project surrounding my hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which was home to one of the uranium enrichment plants that the US Government built as a part of the Manhattan Project during WWII. I am especially interested in local folklore about a man named John Hendrix, “The Prophet of Oak Ridge,” who is said to have had visions foreseeing the development of “a huge factory…that will help win the greatest war there will ever be” some 30 years before the city and its nuclear facilities were developed.

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