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Fred Tomaselli

American, born 1956

Echo, Wow and Flutter, 2000

Leaves, pills, photo collage, acrylic, and resin on wood panel
84 x 120 inches (213.4 x 304.8 cm)
James G. Forsyth Fund, 2001

The feeling of depth in Fred Tomaselli’s paintings is the result of his labor-intensive creation process. One of his first steps is collecting things, including leaves from various plants, pharmaceuticals, collage elements cut out of magazines or natural field guides, and photographic images. He organizes these objects by shape, color, species, and other criteria to establish his palette. To create the arcs in Echo, Wow and Flutter, he pinned a chain over the canvas and traced it. He attached various collage elements along the lines with a paint called gloss medium, then painted more gloss medium—which enhances the effect of colors and dries transparent—over the collage elements to prevent them from discoloring. He applied layers of varnish and painted around each of the elements with black, spread epoxy resin over the surface—which he smoothed with a squeegee—then employed a blowtorch to remove air bubbles from the resin and further smooth the surface. Finally, he polished the surface with fine steel wool. Tomaselli started incorporating drugs into his work in 1989, when many of his friends were taking massive quantities of pills and dying of AIDS. At first he used pharmaceuticals like aspirin and Sudafed, but later added other drugs, because, as he has said, “I think it’s all about the same thing—relief from pain, pleasure, desire, altered consciousness.”

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