Artist Statement

I used to think that there was a specific social order to life. If I worked hard enough to attain a certain professional position, raised the right family, and attended the right church that a deep and ordered sense of satisfaction would logically follow. That satisfaction, however, always eluded me. Rather than peace, I experienced a series of events where nearly every institution I believed in crumbled. My marriage, my job, and my beliefs all came to a roaring crash, and I was left alone to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and begin anew. That’s when I seriously began my return to making art.

Reflective of my experiences, my paintings begin by making abstract marks with colors and building textures. These work together towards attaining compositional balance and visual unity. Whether fully abstract or semi-figurative, my goal is to take you on a visual journey of ups and downs, ins and outs, curves, bumps, and questions. In the end, you might see a little something of yourself and your own journey now assembled into a harmonious expression of colors and lines. My abstract paintings are ultimately about the resiliency of the human spirit and serve to be a blessing to those who see them.

 

Biography 

(with Leandra Beabout and The Goshen News)

For Thomas Zuber, it took divorce and depression to turn a cast-off canvas into a beautiful abstract painting, one which gold and white light seems to glow from a surface of deep stormy blue. 

The painting, entitled “Movements” won first place in the Abstract Expressionism category of the 2017 American Art Awards, a contest that draws entries from more than 50 countries. For Zuber, it was a win on multiple fronts.

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist, since I was 4 years old,” he said. But everyone told him not to pursue that passion, that it would be too difficult to make money.

Zuber made art anyway, whether it was through his custom woodworking business or teaching watercolor painting at a private school in Minneapolis. Eventually he ended up in Goshen, IN where his artistic skills allowed him to teach, Photography and International Baccalaureate-level art classes at Goshen High School. Even then, he felt constricted by the expectations and rules around him. 

“It took me a long time to give myself permission to do abstract. I received my B.A. in Fine Arts from Indiana University and was trained as a realist…Those are great skills, but after years of teaching realism I’m getting stuck in my head. I’m getting bored,” he said.

So a few years ago, after a series of life circumstances forced him to reassess what he deemed important and critical, he gave himself permission to express his thoughts and feelings – however messy – on the canvas. It took time, but the process started to bring him peace.

Over one summer break, he committed to visiting his empty classroom every day “just to paint,” he said. With a movie playing in the background to keep track of time, he worked to break free from the artistic constraints he had learned and taught so well.

“It started hitting me. There was a Zen moment that was like – Life is full of abstractions. I was raised (with) all these institutions about how you’re supposed to live your life… (but) just about every institution I was raised in, it just fell apart. And so what am I left with? I’m left with my art,” he said.

He started to connect his own experiences with the abstract shapes forming on the canvas. Suddenly, a serene pastel blue background with a line sliced through it represented a specific moment or life event. Another slice symbolized a different season, then another and another. 

“And sometimes you’re left with this mess that you have to try to come to peace with,” he explained. (You) make harmony out of it.”

That personal expression came full circle with “Movements.” Inside downtown Goshen’s Flop House, where Zuber recently moved his studio after painting in his classroom’s closet for years, he stood in front of the award-winning piece and told its story.

“This has several paintings underneath it,” he began.

Some time after their divorce, Zuber’s ex-wife contacted him to see if he wanted a collection of canvases he had left in the basement. Taking those paintings back became symbolic, since his desire to be an artist had once been a point of contention between them.

He took the canvases into his workspace and whitewashed them, one by one. It was symbolic, he explained – a clean slate, another way to use art to process his own experiences. 

He painted one of the blank canvases blue, and then started adding texture with a knife.

“You just let it dry, come back to it a week later, and keep building and building,” he said. Maintaining a fascination with Renaissance and Italian Baroque masters, Zuber was practicing traditional glazing work too. Over time, he added layer upon layer of glazed, nearly transparent acrylic color. The painting took on a life of its own – layers of paint and meaning that subtly represented Zuber’s inner world.

Ever the evolving artist, Zuber also began a series of “semi-cubist and abstract portraits,” he said. The human form has always fascinated him, and now he creates abstracts with them, representing anything from political seasons to the way his own brain can’t seem to shut off its own internal monologue at night.

He gestured to a canvas on the wall, a smooth kaleidoscope of faces and shapes. If you could capture the essence of a person, the various stages of their life – they look like this at one point, this at another, then this at another point – fragmented, broken – and putting that together, this is an expression of the human spirit,” he said.

Of Zuber’s paintings, one collector, Steve A. stated the following:

I wanted to give you some “stray thoughts” about the paintings on your website. In short, I love them! I love their energy and balance! So much more than mere symmetry could, your composition is so perfect that even in its asymmetry, it achieves even greater balance because it transcends mere symmetry and achieves exquisite elegance and beauty! It is truly stunning. 

When Zuber shows his work, he notices the smiles and other expressions on people’s faces. “To bring and provoke thoughtfulness. This is why I paint."

 

 

 

Resume

Education:

M. A. Art Education, Boston University, 2012

B.A. Fine Art, Indiana University, 1991

 

Awards:

2017: American Art Awards: First Place Abstract Expressionism, Movements, Acrylic on Canvas, 30x40".

2017: American Art Awards: Tied Sixth Place, Meditation 611 and Meditation 620.

2017 Purchase Award, Refracted Souls, Acrylic on Canvas, 36x48", Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart Juried Regional Show.

2016 Dr. Brian King Purchase Award, The Crashing Light, Acrylic on Canvas, 30x48" Midwest Museum of American Art Juried Regional Show.

2016 Steve Gruber Purchase Award, Fractured, An American Portrait, Acrylic on Canvas, 24x36" Midwest Museum of American Art Juried Regional Show.

2015 Jon and Meghan Wenger Purchase Award, Autumn Overture, Acrylic on Canvas, 24x36", Midwest Museum of American Art Juried Regional Show.

 

Solo Exhibitions

Dr. Tracy Bacon, South Bend, IN. 2016-Current

 

Group Exhibitions

Arts on Main Gallery, Elkhart, IN 2018

Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN 2017

Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN 2016

Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN 2015

Artist Mixer, South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, IN 2015

Lounge Act, Studio 659, Whiting, IN 2015

Artist Mixer, South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, IN 2014

Faculty Exhibit, Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend, IN 2014

Exhibit Palais Royale, South Bend, IN 2013

Faculty Exhibit, Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend, IN 2013

 

Art Festivals

For the Love of Art, South Bend, IN, 2018

For the Love of Art, South Bend, IN, 2017

Art Beat, South Bend, IN 2017

Art Beat, South Bend, IN 2015

Fine Art in the Park, Muskegon MI, 2015

Three Rivers Art Festival, Ft. Wayne, IN 2015

Art Beat, South Bend, IN 2014

Fine Art on the Farm, New Carlisle, IN 2014

Art in the Barn, Goshen, IN 2014

 

Private Collectors

Amber Near, Goshen, IN.

Ruthanne Seitz, South Bend, IN

Margaret Savoian, Eugene, OR

Stuart Meade, Goshen, IN

Steve Alpert, South Bend, IN

Ernesto Flores, Warsaw, IN

Steve Gruber, Elkhart, IN

Dr. Brian King, Elkhart, IN

Jon Wenger, Elkhart, IN

Todd Gerber, Wakarusa, IN

Linda Bacon, Coldwater, MI

David Hanover, South Bend, IN

Dr. Sam Bacon, Indianaoplis, IN

Tony Gerber, Nashville, TN

Additional Collectors in IN, OH, IL and MI

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