Thomas Eddington








Tom Eddington explores human nature, psychology, philosophy and the material characteristics of wood in his Wood Flow solo exhibition at the Shelley Holzemer Gallery. In works like Riverwood and Slow Flow Eddington achieves plasticity in wood that apprehends the liquid characteristics of water. His forms run together and intertwine like water running down a chain or babbling along a stone-strewn mountain streambed. If the sound of flowing water were visible it would look like Riverwood.

In the somewhat more static Satori the fluid feeling of ebb and flow is achieved through the careful revelation of wood grain that seems to echo the direction of form and the overall movement within the piece. Pacific Northwestern Native American totem poles are still being carved to commemorate significant events and clan alliances. Eddington's totemic forms in Source Totem celebrate personal discoveries and our mysterious internal ecosystems that when linked and integrated manifest the human form. Source Totem with its surrealistic almost alien forms also is a vertical and visual palindrome. In Longing Eddington makes visible the emotional stress created by desire. The grasping open shape rests on an octagonal base that repeats the sacred floor plan of the Navajo Hogan. Eddington's painstakingly crafted carvings captivate the human creative spirit and contain energies that were once dedicated to ancient deities.

Wesley Pulkka PH.D. is the art critic for the Albuquerque Journal and other publications.

LIFESTYLE WEST, December 2003

Art with a Soul

The muse is a fickle mistress. Some artists practice yoga or Tai Chi to lure the muse to the surface. Others, like Tom Eddington, encourage it to appear through regular meditation practice.

Looking at Eddington's portfolio of wood sculptures, the viewer realizes that over the years, the Mukwonago artist has been able to keep the muse very happy.

Eddington carves his curvilinear abstract pieces from single blocks of kiln-dried wood. He acquires the wood from tree trimmers, saw mills and specialty stores.

If he had his druthers, Eddington would work exclusively with Honduras mahogany, walnut, catalpa and butternut. "The grain (in these woods) holds the chisel cut and the wood doesn't split," he explained. Other tropical woods aren't the appropriate thickness, nor are they conductive to carving.

Surprisingly, oak does not make the list of preferred materials. Its hardness makes it difficult to carve. It also degrades in the environment sooner than other woods. "Oak also doesn't have any of the saving graces like holding the grain well," said Eddington.

When the muse strikes, Eddington takes the idea, captures it on paper and then creates a template. Using the template the draws the pattern on the wood. The basic pattern is blocked out with saws and drills. Then with chisels, rasps, files and sandpaper, he defines the shape.

Completed pieces are coated with tung oil or varnish to finish them. It takes between 40 and 160 hours to make each sculpture

Eddington's pieces range in size from six inches to eight feet. Some art critics have described the pieces as resembling moebius strips (infinity symbols) or the double helix form of DNA. He strives to portray the thesis of "oneness with the universe" and wants his pieces to reflect the inner person or soul. "I try to have a theme of an organic flowing form," he said.

Galleries in New York City and Minneapolis feature his works. He also has various pieces in private and corporate art collections. Several pieces were recently sold to the Pfizer Drug Company.

Examples of Eddington's interest in wood can be found in his early years. "As a little boy I carved fishing lures and painted them," he said. He continued his interest in art, studying sculpture at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois. A stint in the Army's Canine Corps helped him support himself, his wife and his children as a professional dog trainer.

Rather than seek balance between his work and his art, Eddington blocks out time to keep the parts separate. "I look for balanced harmony in my work," he explained.

And the muse approves.

by Mary Lou Santovec

THE CAPITOL TIMES, September 27, 2001

Thomas Eddington
Porter Butts Gallery
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Milwaukee artist Thomas Eddington makes wood sculptures that seem a miracle of craft and art. Their intricate complex shapes are made from a single large chunk of wood – that is the virtuosic part of his work.

The pieces are highly worked, and yet they stand there in apparent effortlessness, their organic wholesomeness reassuring your eye as it runs endlessly along the Moebius strip-like shapes.

Eddington is a meditator and carver, and this work shows the influence of both.

by Jacob Stockinger

September 26, 2001

To gaze at the polished wood that has been carved into intricate, abstract shapes offers a relaxing kind of looking that feels almost chant-like or meditative - an "om" for the eyes, if you will.

Their presence may be pure happenstance, since exhibition schedules are set months or even a year in advance. But it would be hard to name an art more suited to the moment than the display of 15 wood sculptures by Milwaukee artist Thomas Eddington that are on show in the Wisconsin Union Galleries on the second floor of the Memorial Union through Oct. 14.

Something about the events of the past weeks brings a hunger for quiet and calm, a desire for the basic and the natural. This show satisfies those cravings.

The works are solid, continuous forms - much like interlocking links of a chain fashioned from a single piece of wood - only more intricate and more simple.

If you ask people what they resemble, you might get a lot of different answers.
Some might speak of a Moebius strip, that teasing strip turned in on itself that stands for infinity.

Some might mention the double helix of DNA or the spiral shape of a snail shell - proof that the split between realism and abstraction isn't as always deep or clear as we think.

Some might talk of other cultures, perhaps the stone temple facades of ancient India and Southeast Asia, perhaps the complex geometric shapes of North African arabesques.

They have titles - "Unified Field," "Ascension," "Round River," "Red Tao" and "Spiral" - but the pieces really don't need them to make their impact.

The artist used to do representational art - torsos and busts - and then turned to abstraction in the 1970s after he finished art school. A professional dog trainer who got his start in that career in the U.S. Army, Eddington says he meditates and carves each day.

"Wood is a force of nature, as are we," he says. "It's also physically easier to work with than marble, though some aspects of it are harder."

Each carving starts out as the largest chunk of wood - butternut, tupelo, catalpa, mahogany - that Eddington can get his hands on. Working it into its finished state takes anywhere from several dozen hours to more than 120 hours of drilling, cutting, filing and polishing. Sometimes, he says, he pushes the wood beyond its limits and it breaks and he has to start over.

A quiet man, the Chicago native compares both the product and the process to meditation and a Zen-like calm.

"Any activity you become absorbed in is similar," says Eddington, who started working with wood as a child when he made fishing lures and learned the craft from his grandfather, who was a carpenter with a basement woodshop at home.

"I don't create the work to show other people something," he says. "I just do the piece to please myself and hope that the nature of it being organic and symmetrical is pleasing or useful to others."

And what would the creator like the beholder to experience?

Eddington says he would like his work "to bring a sense of repose or serenity that is available to everyone. I want the viewer to feel the way I do - more centered and peaceful - when they're looking at the work. It is an experience beyond words or symbols. The art is simply a finger that points to the actual experience."

But he emphasizes that he doesn't set out with a particular end result in mind.

"I like to let the wood speak for itself," he explains. "Each piece evolves and is more influenced by the grain of the wood, which is curvilinear, than anything else. All my work is kind of a search for meaning by harmonizing two forms joined into one - like the dualities of life and death or day and night in everyday life. It's all one."

He adds that his art helped him cope with the crushing loss of his 21-year-old daughter in a car crash in 1997.

"I think that's why a lot of people like my work," he says. "I can't explain why they like it, but I just know that it's pleasing to a lot of people and it helps."

by Jacob Stockinger

The Wisconsin Union Galleries are open free of charge to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Published: 8:39 AM 9/26/01

NEW ART EXAMINER, January 1984

Countryside Art Center
408 N. Vail, Arlington Heights, Il 312-253-3005

At a time when fashionable anxieties and calculated ambiguities are the content of much current art, this exhibition of recent wood sculpture by Tom Eddington provided a refreshing respite. Talisman-like in their affirmation of a cyclical life process, the best of these works possess an almost reverent timelessness.

Eddington's sculptures envision "a oneness quality to the universe and its source." In spirit they are similar to Brancusi`s Endless Column, which forges a link between earth and sky, implying endless extension through repetition of a single geometric unit. Like Brancusi's modular units, Eddington's concentric forms offer potentially infinite juncture. They are symbols of a metaphysical order in which whole is perceived as part, and part as whole.

Brancusi's column is conceived in strict symmetry. It is angular, devoid of natural allusions; its surface is rough and direct. By contrast, Eddington's works such as Heartwood and Emanations are based on a fluid, organic line. The artist fashions equally proportioned, yet non-identical sections of twisting, irregular forms; their rounded surfaces are meticulously smooth and varnished. Despite drastic differ- ences in their means, Eddington, like Brancusi, achieves a tangible
profession of faith in the continuity of nature.

The center is significant to Eddington's iconography. Its importance is most likely derived from the artist's study and practice of Zen meditation as well as his American Indian heritage. Eddington uses the spiral -one of the most ancient visual symbols in our modern vocabulary to symbolize the center; there the inter-relation of all things simultaneously seems to begin and end.

This exhibition offered a restatement of life's regenerative capacities.

by Garrett Holg

Thomas Eddington
617 Bay View Rd.
Mukwonago,WI 53149

Home | Galleries | Biography | Reviews | Contact