Creating this wall sculpture for Marsha & Eric Nichols was a marvelous experience. They had been searching for someone to create a piece for their lake house near Austin for quite a while. Eric mentioned to me that they could not find anyone and asked if I knew of anyone in the artist community. I said yes, me. Eric has one of my images from the “In The Clouds” collection at his law office downtown so he already had confidence in my talents.
Marsha & Eric were looking for a metal sculpture that reflected the nature of water. We ultimately settled on a series of waves. I provided them with several designs for them to look at. After they selected one, I made some mock-ups with different types of back-lighting and colors of light. Once the choice of light color and effect was selected, I created a model, so we could see how the light color would look on a rock wall. The exterior of their house in Austin has a similar rock wall to the lake house, so one night I set the model up to test the color and determine the distance from the wall we wanted the light. Eric FaceTimed Marsha, she was out of town that night, so she could see how it looked and help with the final decisions.
The last challenge in creating this piece was how best to hide the source of electricity and the photo eye that would turn on the light at night. I strive to create pieces that viewers can become absorbed in, so it is important that the techniques creating the effects are not visible. Working with the sources that were already there, I found the best option for obscuring the power source. But it was Eric who came up with the solution for the photo eye by placing where it went through the bottom wave.
Finally one Saturday afternoon I took the finished sculpture out to their lake house. With Eric’s help, we got it installed and that evening it was illuminated for the first time.
Here is an an interview I did with VoyageAustin on January 26, 2021.
Daily Inspiration: Meet Tom Suhler
Today we’d like to introduce you to Tom Suhler.
Hi Tom, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself. I’m a native of Texas who moved to Austin in 1980. Around the age of 13, I realized we only have one time here, so I made it my life’s goal to explore as many different worlds as I could. That led me to wearing many different hats in the fields of sports, entertainment, arts, and business over the past few decades. In a recent career day at Allison Elementary School, I asked the kids to think about how exciting it is just before they open a present because they have no idea what it could be. Every day of their life can be unique and filled with surprises when they explore different things. I let them know that all this is possible for me because when I was their age I learned how to learn. If they get that from school, then they can do anything they want.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome? I imagine that if you choose to specialize in one or two endeavors it may be a simpler existence. The recurring struggles I’m faced with as I venture into a new arena are that the learning curves can be daunting and finding acceptance in a new community is difficult. It takes a while for people to believe you can do the things you say that you can. It is challenging but I love it. This lifestyle may not work for everyone, but it sure seems to fit me.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others? Well, as you can imagine from what I’ve said, I don’t specialize in any one thing. I’ve worked as a producer, director, and assistant director in the film industry. I create sculptures with mixed media and explore glasswork. Having said that, the vast majority of art I’ve created in recent years is in storytelling through photography. I create snippets of stories encapsulated in just a single frame. The process of creating these images involves many of the aspects that I enjoy in making movies. There are stories to write, characters to motivate, sets to design and light, and helping actors with their craft. Add to that. It provides greater flexibility in exploring a limitless range of topics and themes simultaneously. Everything from how we interact with the world around us to character relationships, philosophy, psychology, string theory, and all the things curiosity is driving me to explore and contemplate. On set, I am fortunate to work with some of Austin’s most creative and talented dancers and artists in pursuit of telling these stories. Each collection I’ve created has its own set of constraints freeing me up to work within them. But all of them must have a beautiful layer on top supported by deeper layers of meaning and purpose. Plus, everything in the image must be captured on set and in-camera. I prefer to spend my time on set rather than digitally manipulating images on a computer.
What does success mean to you? One day while talking to my aunt she asked me, “Thomas, are you successful?” I said, “Well, aunt Dessie, mom just died, I have this personal relationship problem, I’m still building this house doing all the construction myself, I just started a new business, and I’ve got this problem and that problem…” And she said, “Are you successful?” Then I thought for a moment and said, “Well, I get to do what I want to do 90% of the time.” She said, “then you’re successful.” But that is just a very egocentric way of looking at success. What’s more important is what someone contributes to other people. With storytelling, it’s revealing different perspectives to people through our own unique lens. Another form of success is contributing to our community. Mentoring is one powerful way to achieve this that we all have access to. I’ve been part of the Seedling Mentoring Program for over 14 years. We mentor kids with an incarcerated parent. I am just one of the hundreds of mentors who have lunch once a week with one of the thousands of children who are part of this community. It’s amazing how less than 1% of your time can impact another person’s life. I know I’m here only because of the hosts of mentors I’ve had throughout my life.
Opening night for the Austin People’s Gallery 2020 collection is this Friday, March 6th from 6-9PM. This piece from the In The Clouds collection will be on display in Austin’s City Hall for the next 9 months.
I’ll be hanging near my piece on the 2nd floor. Come by, say hi, and checkout art from hundreds of Austin artists. The Austin’s City Hall is at 301 W 2nd Street.
February 13th marks the 9th consecutive year that I am premiering new art in Florida at the Nudenite Pop Up Art Experience. This show continues to present my work to the growing community of people collecting my art.
The Orlando show runs February 13th – 15th and the Tampa show is February 27th – 29th. The show includes art in its many forms including interactive installations and performance pieces. I am exhibiting these two pieces in this dynamic experience. Of course, I used no digital manipulation in creating these pieces.