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The Art Deco King

art decoWorld-renowned artist Thomas Nawrocki often says that he considers his work to be 50-75 years ahead of its time.
He may be right. Heavily inspired by the Art Deco movement that started in France in the 1920’s, the Columbus artist works in fiber, drawings, intaglio diptych, mezzotint and mixed media prints. He also enjoys building furniture and lamps in the art deco style, using materials like chrome, automobile parts, stained and etched glass, and oak.

His art, the most recognizable of which are his mixed media prints, has been shown in over 500 state, regional, national and international competitions. This year alone, he has work being shown in Alexandria, Egypt; New York, New York; Houston, Tx.; West Hollywood, Calif.; and Sofia, Bulgaria.

Nawrocki’s Mixed Media Prints, entitled “Zig Zag Zig” series incorporates digital imagery, and straight lines as well as curved elements. All are hinged together, creating partially or fully animated pieces of art. Nawrocki also involves elements of numerology in his art.

“I utilize seven shapes to make up a single composition — a single main shape and six supporting shapes, or leaves,” he said. “In Eastern culture, the odd numbers are considered masculine and even numbers feminine. I’m working with both: odds, with the seven total shapes, and evens, with the six supporting shapes. Both masculine and feminine. … It’s also believed by some that we travel from this world to the next on the seventh ray of the sun,” he mused.

Nawrocki said he uses the leaves in the Zig Zag Zig prints to give a “strong suggestion of movement, which flows beyond the actual composition themselves.

“Many artists use movement, like the use of birds for example… but I’m incorporating movement in the physical art with the leaves,” he explained.

“I am interpreting nature in its purest, abstract state-constructing a rhythm of pictorial lyricism using objects impregnated with fluorescent pigments,” he said. Nawrocki then photographs the objects illuminated with back-light, scans it into a computer, edits and prints it onto adhesive-backed paper, and then cuts and mounts the pieces onto a plastic surface. The image is then mounted between Plexiglas and framed in zinc using angular and curvilinear silhouettes.

“Hinges are then added to create the partially or fully animated effect and connect the various units together which form the completed print,” he said. “The process is carefully repeated to insure the integrity of an edition of three. Even with the constant threat of chaos with the extensive use of diagonals, sharp angles and bold color, I have sought an intuitive sense of ideal order.”

Nawrocki has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Printmaking, a Master’s Degree in Weaving, and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Watercolor, all from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He is retired from teaching Printmaking, Fiber Arts and Dimensional Design after more than 40 years at Mississippi University for Women.

His wife Susan is also an artist, but where Tom loves bright colors, she enjoys pencil drawings in black and gray. She goes by the name Susa in the art world, and has also competed with her work. She is retired from Columbus-Lowndes Public Library where she was a reference librarian and now the couple spends their time making art at their home studio.

They have two grown children; Dr. Selena Nawrocki is a professor of Interior Design at Valdosta State University in Georgia and Dr. Steffan Nawrocki is the director of Pre-Clinical Research at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio, Tx.

Nawrocki prides himself as being a very unique artist. “I’m the only printmaker in the world with curves,” he said, referring to his Zig Zag Zig series with irregular frames. “You have to have something extra to attract attention. I’ve always tried to push the media beyond its limits.

“The common denominator in all of my work, from the time I was a grad student, is the shape silhouette. My involvement is to seek out a complex solution, one that is visually exciting and incredibly arresting, and build an image that no one else can simulate or copy. … I’ve always utilized the philosophy that more is more.”

Nawrocki started his art career in elementary school where he was required to take several wood and metalworking classes. He found a talent for making things and as he got interested in art, always built the frames for his own work.
According to Nawrocki, it spiraled from there. He said he was fortunate enough to have teachers that always allowed him to try things outside the curriculum and experiment. As a teacher, he said he tried to encourage his students to take chances and push boundaries as well. “My emphasis was on quality, not quantity,” he said.

Nawrocki said he hopes to return to teaching soon, but is enjoying his time at home making art in his retirement. He is continually submitting pieces for competition and showing pieces at galleries.

“I don’t believe a work of art exists in the closet, or under a bed,” he said. “It exists to be seen.”

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