Gallery Artists > Thom Ross Biography :

Thom Ross (b. 1953)  Artworks >>

A painter, usually in acrylic, of iconic western figures including cowboys, Indians and white-male shoot-em-up villains, Thom Ross is dedicated to "historical ghosts", that is depicting events of frontier American history such as The Alamo and Custer's Last Stand in a way that cuts through mythology and shows underlying realism. He is bored by the traditional images of heroes and unlikely feats or accomplishments, and is dedicated to keeping American history alive---as it really happened. When he is not at his easel, he is reading books from which he gets ideas for more paintings. Many of his pieces are humorous such as his Indians Playing Pingpong, which shows men in full feather headdresses having fun at a light-hearted game instead of the stock image of them aiming bows and arrows at white frontier settlers. Another painting, It Went Up With a BANG, shows Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid surrounded by flying dollar bills after a robbery with dynamite went awry. Thom Ross grew up in Sausalito and was much taken with westerns he saw on television such as Wyatt Earp. He studied art at California State University in Chico. At age 23, he left Marin County, and went to South Dakota to the scene of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the centennial celebration of that event. He began asking himself questions about truth vs. propaganda or assumed truths and set out to create paintings that revealed 'what likely happened'. He says "you cannot explain historical events that have passed into our own mythology strictly in terms of what happened. Instead they must be examined through a metaphysical microscope: What is the meaning of the Alamo? Of Wyatt Earp? Of the OK Corral?" After marrying and living several places including Burlington, Vermont and Palm Springs, California, Thom Ross and his family settled in Seattle, Washington. Working as a waiter to support his family, he showed samples of his work to a customer, who, in turn, connected him with a gallery. The owner signed him on immediately and Ross's career as a fine-art painter took off. In 2002, he received an honor, which was a commission to illustrate the centennial edition of The Virginian by Owen Wister. For that project he did many color paintings and 35 woodcuts for the chapter headings. Ross has also written and illustrated a book, Gunfight at the OK Corral. Another project has been a baseball-themed mural for Safeco Field, the Seattle Mariners' ballpark. For this, he did eleven steel cutouts of players in a victory mode. His largest project was 200 plywood cutouts for the recreation of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 2005 to commemorate the 129th Anniversary. Proudly he says: "I was the first guy that ever had an art opening on the Custer battlefield." As of 2006, his next planned project is a panoramic scene of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1902, when the Show with 102 Indians gathered along the San Francisco waterfront in an area that is now part of the Golden Gate Recreation park. He is creating tall figures, most of them over six feet in height. The images are intended to stimulate dialogue, and to orient viewers to the meanings of the real people behind the events. Source: Joan Brown, "Thom Ross: Breathing New Life into the Old West", Wildlife Art, May/June 2006, pp. 66-70

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