James Thatcher, is a full-time artist living in northern Michigan, USA. He first created a postcard artwork for Twitter Art Exhibit in 2014, when he was ‘recruited’ by another great TAE supporter, artist Wendy Klein. James is used to working on much larger work, including public art murals, however, he loves the scale of the Twitter Art Exhibit and the diminutive works demanded by the 5” x 7” format. Here James talks to Carolyn Murphy about his inspiration, his art and his activism.
James Thatcher is a regular contributor to TAE. He’s politically vocal and has used his art in support of causes he’s passionate about. ‘Current Abstraction’ is his ongoing body of work and reflects his fascination with materials and geometry. James sees his work with geometry, algebra and trigonometry as a connection to his background in cabinet making and also to his worldview and faith.
How has your cabinet making influenced your art?
I had a career as a cabinet maker for almost 25 years, so it’s had a big influence – initially as something to rebel against. Now that I’ve retired from the field, it’s a strong technical influence and I use the drafting and layout skills.
What did you create for your first Twitter Art Exhibit?
I created a sweet little painting, perfectly related to my geometric studio work back then. It was a humble and quiet work, pristine and diminutive.
How do you incorporate your activism into your art practice?
Well, the ‘Faces of Hunger’ series was a special project I did during my stint as a volunteer at our regional food bank in southern Oregon. I began a project photographing recipients at the nineteen food pantries and community kitchens. The idea was to communicate who we really serve – those in need – speaking their untold stories. I used banana boxes, as they are the ubiquitous containers used to ship, transfer and distribute food in Oregon. This project led to my 2019 Twitter Art Exhibit entry.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your creative career so far?
One far-reaching career highlight was recreating a mural for the city of Salisbury, in Maryland, USA in 2013 to replace one I made in 1993. It was the culmination of a 3-year civic process, which included crowd funding, press coverage, and the opportunity to write articles for an established arts blog, as well as public speaking at the opening ceremony.
Tell us about your most recent postcard contribution.
My 2022 entry into the Twitter Art Exhibit was again a geometric painting. It features a meticulously rendered parallelogon with an equally meticulous blue-green gradation, coupled with a text and formulaic description of the shape as the background. It contains 44 rhombi and 8 scalene triangles, all within a 5” x 7” frame. I was so flattered that 2022 board member Cat Salter picked my work as one of her “Favorite Five!”
What brings you back each year to TAE?
I love the scale of the Twitter Art Exhibit. It’s worldwide but intimate and the Twitter Art Exhibit family is passionate, as well as compassionate. How much heart can you pack into 5” x 7”? They are also dogged recruiters for artists to join in. It’s always the right thing to support the charity. Cajole on, TAE family!
Do you have a message for people thinking about taking part in TAE23 in Vancouver, Canada?
Do it! And then badger your friends and Twitter followers to join you in making the world a better place, 35 square inches at a time.
What are your plans for your future creative direction?
I plan to be more settled, geographically…and aesthetically. My wife and I moved to northern Michigan 18 months ago, and after a long and winding road, we now live about 20 miles (as the crow flies) from where I grew up. I feel rooted in my home area and hope to generate a body of work that binds all the visions and influences into one.
Our house has a 20’ x 20’ outbuilding that is my studio. It’s getting a big facelift this fall when I will be renovating it myself. There are some fascinating bits to begin using over the winter as I christen the space with new endeavors - including torn sheets of asphalt roofing. I envision creating a bunch of minute collages using bits of the ‘roll-a-roof’, which I’ll then use for large-scale (2m) assemblages.
You can find out lots more about James’s projects from his blog https://jamesthatcherarts.blogspot.com and see more work on his website https://jtnwdc.wixsite.com/jamesthatcherarts. You’ll also find James on Twitter @jtnwdc