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Mind and Sight: The Art of Cathy Thomas

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Mind and Sight: The Art of Cathy Thomas

By Sharon Feissel     

Fireworks Close-upCathy Thomas’s photography collections include social documentary themes, such as her series on tattoos adorning Petaluma residents. She does, of course, do more standard subjects, such as gardens and landscapes, especially of Ireland, and snaps the occasional close-up. However, wanting a different art form to further express her creativity, Cathy opted for collage.  She says, “I’ve done both photography and collage for a long time. Collage is from my mind; photography is sight. The creativity of the two can be interchangeable. Many times a collage inspiration comes through my photographic images but also through found objects of interest. I don’t do a design on paper. It’s all in my mind, so often I just pick materials and start moving them around on paper until an idea emerges.”  

Musical InstrumentsAlthough collage was being done for centuries, the Cubists – Picasso, Braque, and Gris – are credited with its use as an abstract art form, with Picasso taking it into three-dimensions. Even though individual objects are generally recognizable, the overall image created by their juxtaposition doesn’t represent physical reality. However, collage can express any number of realities – political, environmental, situational, humorous, even sentimental – by revealing those ideas through the combination of the chosen bits and pieces. Teasing us, in her piece, Tango, Cathy included an amusing text: “Tango: A Vertical Expression Of Horizontal Desire.” (She knows you are chuckling.)

Illustrating reality in collage, Cathy says, “When my sister retired after 25 years as a docent at the San Francisco Zoo, I wanted to present her with a memory and so created a collage with her favorite animals: big cats and primates. I added a giraffe to honor our father’s favorite. To some photos I added paint to emphasize the markings and used fur from my cat, Paris, for the monkey hair tufts and fishing line for lion whiskers. Colored art papers and prints were indicative of jungle color.” Offering another example, she says, “Friends have wild peacocks on their property where an abundance of feathers lie. I love the sea with so many glorious shades of blue and green. The idea of combining those colors with the feathers inspired a piece on the sea. It took quite a while to get the right effect with the feathers and papers and numerous additions and changes.”

Seascape CollageCathy’s current focus is two-dimensional collage. Loving music, she created a series on music and instruments. “These were a challenge due to the new-to-me process of transfers. I am learning how to remove a photograph or print from the backing paper, leaving just the ink image, and to incorporate that into the collage. In one image I transferred notes from actual sheet music. The lifted piece is fragile and tears easily, so while I’m working with it, you might just hear me mumbling under my breath, but it does add a different textural and visual component. In true artistic spirit, Cathy is still searching, experimenting, exploring, and evolving in ideas, mediums, and techniques.