Friends and Dusks and Dawns: Lucia Thomé’s Solo Summer: An Essay by H. John Thompson
Friends and Dusks and Dawns: Lucia Thomé’s Solo Summer
By H. John Thompson
When I visit Lucia Thomé’s apartment and studio, she answers the door by saying, “Hi friend.” On a recent stopover, Lucia was the first to notice a bird flapping over our heads as we walked up the stairs. The bird was a mourning dove, and Lucia had found another friend, but one she didn’t exactly want bearing gifts all over her apartment. Grabbing a large lid from a Rubbermaid container, she attempted to corral the bird towards the door and out onto the rooftop deck, at which point the dove started fluttering back toward the stairs. I tried to snatch the bird but for fear of causing it harm, I couldn’t clutch it tight enough as it beat its wings inside the stairwell. Lucia handed me the Rubbermaid container lid. By this time the bird was tired, so I pressed the lid against its feet. The bird stepped onto the lid and I carried it up the stairs and out onto the deck. Thankfully, the mourning dove departed unscathed into the West Philadelphia evening.
Of course I would find a dove in Thomé’s studio, cuing me to recall the coo of doves I heard at my grandparents’ house on summer mornings. Because it was at my grandparents’ house where I spent my weekends as a preteen, inventing and building an imaginary world and embedded in this memory was the feeling of freedom and joy in exploring materiality and process that Lucia Thomé’s work brings to the surface. The characteristics of Lucia’s works, especially their scale, speak of this freedom in world building because most of the works in Solo Summer are the size of toys, if not made from actual toys themselves. However, while Thomé’s work lives in an imaginary realm, materials must come from the physical world. Practicing what she preaches as the Director of Special Projects at RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency), materials frequently come from the waste stream of Revolution Recovery. In her daily travels through the world in which she moves, Thomé sources objects and bits of anything; sometimes punctuated by an Alibaba.com score in the case of the miniature Nikes of Centipede, which happen to be shoes for a Ken doll.
Solo Summer marks time spent relatively alone during the warmest months of 2016. Finding herself newly single, Thomé took to the studio to investigate a change in daily rhythms and rituals and to trust in an intuition that’s at once playful and sophisticated. A continual presence within many of the works in Solo Summer is the winding path, alluding to the act of strolling, pacing, or wandering. And Again is a meandering loop of reconfigured model train tracks that echo the lines in Mini Haulin’ Sol, a visual and dimensional simile of Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawing 1152 which in turn mirrors the undulating bricks in Form and Function, a surreal wall fragment with exposed wooden studs laid on the floor reflecting ocean waves. Each of these works points to habitual travels of summer days that seem to pass slowly, with time to add an extra length to the track, to extend the journey from point A to point B by adding a curve here or there in the circuit, but there’s always the return, just perhaps a bit later than usual. Rain, Glitter are small paper pillows complete with indentations where a head has rested for the night. The pillows mark the place to which one returns, where the cycle begins and ends. The tiny Nike’s affixed to the hooks of a repurposed metal box that once functioned as a rack for keys in Centipede seem to mark the number of times the paths of And Again and Mini Haulin’ Sol have been taken. This accumulation of moments produces a larger creature that lives in the nebulous, swelling world that creates (or is created by) the brick wall fragment, Form and Function. Meanwhile, Donut, an appropriated and altered LEGO kit of a front-end loader turns to travel in an ever continuous circle.
Donut is one of the more deceptively simple pieces in the show, but one which reveals a deep presence and sensitivity within context. The life of the piece began when Thomé assembled a LEGO kit of a front-end loader but was dissatisfied with the unfamiliarity of the LEGO version. The cab on the toy was too small and it was the wrong color. It was not the front-end loader she knew. The solution was to augment the LEGO kit with additional paper architecture to more aptly reflect the contours and appearance of the machinery Lucia knew so well. She wanted to recreate her friend, to bring it home from the yard at RAIR. Thomé’s work is fabricated in the sense that her objects are physically made, and exist as dimensional things in the world, but their metaphysical presence is so much more profound than it initially appear to be. Lucia’s work is like her. It says “hi friend” as well. It welcomes us with its handmade qualities, it attracts passersby with its familiar materials, and it reminds us of the joy of making new things.
About the Author:
John Thompson is a founding member of NAPOLEON and a Lecturer of Art at Penn State Abington College where he is the Art Gallery Director and Wood Shop Coordinator. His work has been exhibited locally and nationally. Thompson has an upcoming solo show at NAPOLEON that will run through January and February. His favorite month is October when he makes fish stew and bakes apple pies in the company of his cats, Frank and Eleanor.