Jesse Thomas and his Cerulean Brigade
August 18th, 2011 by Maria Anderson
Jesse Thomas is a St. Louis based painter who recently showed at the Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco. New American Paintings featured Thomas in their August Midwest Issue, #95, and his work was at the NEXT art fair in Chicago, where he showed with Robert Bills Contemporary. I loved his paintings right away, beacause of the rich colors, the iconic people that seem part of bygone eras, and the way the textures come together in these scenes. There are no telephones or modern pieces of technology in sight, thought one does feature a sort of astronaut next to a space being with a clawed hand. The shag carpeting in dense living rooms of chintzy furniture, the art and maps in the backgrounds of another, and the simply lined cabinets as the backdrop to a table of margaritas and bearded men, give a luxurious, decadent atmosphere to Thomas’s paintings.
There is a pleasant lilt to the lines, and a lot going on in the rooms busy with furniture and people. The characters’ faces and demeanor draw you into the spaces they inhabit. The decadent blues are what really drives the paintings, along with the supple lines and the grounding geometry of the floors, walls, and cabinets. I almost recognize some of the people in them, and this feeling of the barely-recognized persona is what draws me in, what makes the conversations or music of the scenes almost audible. The bleak firmament of the roofs and ceilings cap the rooms into a cozy, closed space. In one below, beams are visible.
The word cerulean was first used around 1590, over 40o years ago. The word is thought to derive from the Latin word caeruleus, “dark blue, blue or blue-green”, which most likely comes from caelum, meaning “heaven” or “sky.” The Latin word was applied by Roman authors to the sky, the Mediterranean, and occasionally to leaves or fields.
Thomas studied at Parsons School of Design in New York and finished at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he earned a BFA in 1993. He got his Master of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis in 2003. Thomas now teaches drawing, painting, and design at Washington University in St. Louis. He has also taught in Corona and Florence, Italy, for the Washington University and the University of Georgia’s Summer Programs. His work is held in the collections of the Olin Corporation, the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, and in numerous private collections.
Photographs courtesy of the artist and Ashley Taylor at Fecal Face.
For more of his work, visit his website.