Artist Profile – Thomas Rude – Artist

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Old growth redwood salvaged from beaches, and beams that held up a now-demolished railroad trestle for 100 years, are some of the materials self-taught artist Thomas Rude seeks out for his carved work. Rude takes his cues from such early American forms as the whirligig, but he’s no historic preservationist: rocket scientists, falling roller-bladers, and other exotics of contemporary culture pop up in his work. Using a minimum of power tools and putting in long hours with mallet and gouge, or fine whittling knives, Rude creates work informed by his early fascination with carved and painted carousel horses, circus wagons, and ship’s figureheads, as well as his current dreams and internal processes.

Rude also creates meticulously detailed linoleum-cut prints of animals and people, often with an affectionate, knowing reference to the human condition. These mostly black and white relief prints are strongly derivative of old-world religious icons but are inhabited by more current subjects.

Rude brings over thirty years of woodcarving casino experience to his craft, including fifteen years accepting commissions as a custom woodcarver. Although he is not a folk artist in the purist sense, Rude strongly identifies with the self-taught and art for the people aspects of the form. Jean Lipman, one of the pioneer scholars in the field of folk art, wrote: “Activity of the folk artists…was a central contribution to the main stream of American culture in the formative years of our democracy.” Rude makes work that continues to reflect this theme. A mixture of American revolutionary spirit gleaned from writings of our founding fathers, and imagined alternate courses of history imbue many of Rude’s polychromed or collaged woodcarvings.

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