Thomas Stevens claims his art career began with a life drawing class while a student at UNC Chapel Hill - even though he was, to the puzzlement of his parents, majoring in children’s literature. Struggling with a lifelong inability to decide what he wants to do when he grows up, Stevens persisted in attempts at drawing, sculpture, and painting. In the 50 years he has lived in North Carolina, Stevens overcame nominal success working as a pre-school teacher, social worker, therapist, non-profit executive, leadership consultant, antiques dealer, and seven-term small town mayor, only to become a full time artist.
In 2015 Stevens opened a modest art gallery in downtown Hillsborough at the site of a former attorney office and failed vape shop. His body of artwork includes whimsical still life paintings, colorful local landscapes, and an alarming number of people who have lost their clothes. His galley has been featured several times in the News of Orange County, and has received numerous likes on Facebook. The gallery expanded in 2021 to include an upstairs working studio, where the artist continues to create artworks he describes as mostly harmless.
My work is representational. I seek to portray the individual character of the subject, be it person or place, while still creating a work that has universal interest and appeal. Anchored in realism, I incorporate symbolic, abstract, impressionistic, and allegorical qualities into my work.
I like to think of myself as a bricoleur - that is, one who tinkers or puts odds and ends together to make something work. I tinker with vivacity and whimsey, light and shadow, interiors and exteriors, eros and humor, reality and fantasy, seriousness and play.
My landscape body of work of the last decade are predominantly of specific Hillsborough locations, observing ‘interiors’ of ‘exterior’ places, e.g. a sidewalk tunneling through a tree canopy, reflections of shadows on water, paths enclosed by woodland. The best compliment I ever received on my figure work was a young woman pointing to one of my large nudes and saying, “I want to be like her. She’s comfortable in her skin.”
I believe art is about making each work come alive and contribute to a larger story. If the art feels alive, we feel alive. I have the privilege of making art about people and places I love.