Tom has lived and worked in this studio for three decades or so watching the town grow into unrecognizable proportions. Tucked behind one of the oldest watering holes in Taos off one of the main drags, Taos Plaza is a walk away but inside Tom’s world one could be anywhere.
The modest space, little more than a converted shed or garage, is furnished with the bare necessities but in the room where he paints northern light streams through high case windows which line the top of one wall facing Taos Mountain. It’s a perfect mythical artist’s space and the work made in there is too big figuratively, and often literally, for its confines.
Yet it is here where Tom has built an extraordinary body of work made to last and relevant whether made in Taos or New York. He grew up in Denver but is cryptically evasive about his past; he lives and paints in the present.
After a stint at the Art Institute in Chicago he came here and began to work. Often in the early days he could be found bartering his drawings of dogs for food and libations. These days he shows at the 203 Gallery on Ledoux Street and is sought after by collectors.
Tom’s paintings vary in size but their vital gesture, the tension of line, abstracted, open up space and time rendering it limitless and ever changing. Indeed these paintings change many times before Tom deems them complete if ever he does. Complex and yet supremely simple, just like the place he lives and works in, which has little more than the work and a few old Navajo rugs which cover a chair and a bench. The easel sits low. There is paint everywhere but it’s very neat, very orderly.
Some editorial clippings, photographs and drawings on cardboard, other bits and pieces of interest, cover a corner of a wall. I noticed Basquiat among them. I knew Jean Michelle quite well in NYC, where in the early 80’s he was SAMO, a graffiti artist who rode the trains in the dead of night armed with spray paint. He used to make little postcards and sell them in SOHO. Tom’s work reminds me of Basquiat’s in the deliberate naivete of the approach but it is not the same; it is his singular style informed by the life he has chosen to live.
Tom could be anywhere doing what he’s doing here but Taos seems to have allowed him the privilege of maturing as an artist and reaping the benefits of his hard work, without burning out early or dying young.
Portrait of Tom Dixon by Paul O’Connor
Paul O’Connor’s book Taos Portraits took top prize in the Arizona/New Mexico Book Awards 2014, in three categories. Best Art Book, Best Cover and Best Book of 2014.