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Tom Holt b. 1980, Outerspace/Innerspace, 2016; ink, graphite, and watercolor on paper, 20 1/2 x 15 1/8 inches; framed 24 3/8 x 18 5/8 inches; Gift of the Artist for Gala 2016

Tom Holt b. 1980, Outerspace/Innerspace, 2016; ink, graphite, and watercolor on paper, 20 1/2 x 15 1/8 inches; framed 24 3/8 x 18 5/8 inches; Gift of the Artist for Gala 2016

Tom Holt is a painter, muralist, and installation artist born in Carmel, N.Y. He received a BS in visual arts at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2002. That same year, he moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where he became one of the founders of Kamikaze Gallery & Media Center, a live/work space in downtown Buffalo. Holt and the other core members were in their early twenties and used the combination gallery and performance space/screening room to exhibit their own work and that of guest artists. Both individually and in collaboration with each other, they created work in a variety of media (including visual art, film, video, and live performance) that often made reference to the popular culture of the previous two decades. Though short-lived, Kamikaze made a major impression on the Western New York art community, and signaled that a new generation of interdisciplinary artists was emerging. After the group disbanded, Holt and Brian Milbrand, another of the founding members, continued to collaborate on visual art, media, digital, and performance projects while also pursuing solo careers. One of their most ambitious early post-Kamikaze ventures was 24:48 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in 2003, a 48-hour long performance (subdivided into 24 2-hour installments) by the duo and an invited group of more than 20 other painters, musicians, writers, and other artists. Holt painted a mural over the course of the 2 days, and video documentation of the entire event formed the content of a subsequent gallery installation.

Holt’s work ranges in scale from small pencil or ink drawings and mixed media paintings to wall-sized murals. He frequently draws from the visual languages of graffiti, advertising, cartoons, comic books, anime, and the video games and skateboard culture of his youth. Expressing admiration for the constantly evolving nature of street art—a genre in which one artist may begin with a sketch of an idea, then paint it on the side of a building, mindful that other artists may later respond to the piece by embellishing or revising it—he describes the ongoing process as "...free-form painting akin to the musical format of jazz arrangements. The purest satisfaction in art is taking something small and recreating it on a grand scale, altering the experience and contributing to a greater visual impact." [1]
While the collaborative, larger-than-life, public aspects of graffiti hold their appeal for Holt, an equally important component of his aesthetic is the intimate, private domain of the personal journal. Holt’s vast and ever-growing collection of sketchbooks not only serve as the testing ground for more “finished” works, but are sometimes exhibited as artworks themselves. Colin Dabkowski of the Buffalo News describes these volumes as “a compendium of Holt's preoccupations, his dreams and nightmares and some personal details of his life that many artists would be loath to reveal to the public.” [2]

In the same 2012 review, Dabkowski calls Holt "one of this region's most imaginative artists" and characterizes his best paintings and sketches as “happily rough around the edges … melancholic without being overbearing, beautiful without sacrificing its strangeness, and elevated by a hint of the juvenile or mischievous.”

In 2012, Holt was designated one of the Burchfield Penney’s first “Living Legacy” artists. His work has been exhibited at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Burchfield Penney, and the Buffalo Arts Studio, among other institutions. Solo shows include Tom Holt: Test for Echo (2009) at the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, Presto! Recent Work by Tom Holt (2012) at Studio Hart, and Hold Your Fire (2012) at Space 224 in Buffalo. In 2006 Squeaky Wheel/Buffalo Media Resources commissioned a mural from him for the rear of their building at 712 Main Street. In 2007, he was invited, along with artists at each stop on Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters’s concert tour, to paint the band’s iconic “flying pig” balloon, set aloft during the show.
In addition to his own artistic career, Holt is an active participant in the Western New York museum community. He served in a number of positions at the Burchfield Penney from 2006 through 2008, including interim education coordinator and preparator, and was involved in several projects making the organization’s collection and exhibitions accessible to the public. In 2007 he curated an exhibition by artist Jack Drummer (1935-2013) as part of the Burchfield-Penney’s contribution to the multi-site Beyond/In Western New York project. He is currently assistant preparator at Buffalo’s Anderson Gallery.

For more information on Tom Holt, visit tomholtdraws.weebly.com. You can also view his work on his instagram account.