Roger V Thomas has worked as a taxidermist, Formica carpenter and histopathological technologist among other things while figuring out how to be a studio artist. He began working with glass in California in 1973, first in stained, then blown glass, and a decade later in fusing. He and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon in 1988 and he continued working out of the basement of their house, creating his iconic images in bowls and light fixtures, and then in large “paintings” of glass. Two decades later, he finally opened his dream studio at Roger Thomas Glass, where he continues to expand and develop his technique.
He is something of a charming curmudgeon-one easily distracted by balls of yarn and ceiling fans, but a devoted friend and giver of advice (even when it isn’t wanted…). He claims to despise parties and meeting new people, yet casts a spell over everyone he meets with his entertaining stories and clever wit. He adores gossip and thrives on rumors (especially the ones he makes up himself), but will be the best of listeners and allies when a real problem arises. Or as he puts it, he “loves to be trusted.”
He brings this same dichotomy to his artwork. Easily distracted by color, design and structure wherever he goes, he’s well known for wandering off when he finds a copse of trees that he absolutely must photograph. Yet in his art, he attempts to extract the very essence of form of those trees in order to communicate his view of the world to others. And he chooses to do it with one of the most unforgiving mediums in the art world. He claims the medium of wood is too soft-he regularly slaughtered his wood-working projects in school-and paint is too temporary. Watercolors fade and pastels can disappear like sidewalk chalk in a rainstorm.
Glass is something so belligerent and unyielding that it creates a narrow set of confines for him to work his will on. It demands whoever wishes to master it learn to work his own magic. Each of Roger’s iconic images was once a technique, learned and taught as an attempt to work within those narrow confines. By now, these techniques to him are second nature, enabling him to take pictorial art and abstract it, so that the representation surpasses the technique. Like the Oriental ink brush master, he has chosen a medium that responds so broadly to manipulation that he only hopes to, after a lifetime of study, finally bend it with precision to his desires, and express the world in a brush stroke.
He approaches glass as a sculptural medium and ends up creating masterful paintings.
Roger has pieces in many important collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. His work has been shown at the Corning Museum of Art, New York, as well as in other museums and galleries around the world. Thomas regularly teaches workshops and college courses in the United States and international venues.