- Earthlings: The Paintings of Tom Palmore
- Tom Quaid Publishing, 160 pp.
While he has occasionally been categorized as a wildlife artist, Palmore shuns such associations. “Even when I put an animal in a natural setting, I try to make it my own through unusual lighting, unique compositions, or atypical points of view,” he says. “The worst thing, in my opinion, is when an artist copies someone else. There are a handful of original wildlife artists and the rest are members of the ‘elk in the meadow’ or ‘moose in the water’ schools. We are all influenced by society and by history, but you have to take those examples, put them through your own filter and make them your own.”
In the same breath, Palmore concedes that his paradoxical disconnects of animals and backdrops tread a thin line between absurdity and silliness, between respecting animals and humanizing them. “Absurdity is wonderful,” he elaborates, “but I don’t want to humanize or disrespect an animal. I think it is silly to depict them doing human activities like smoking a pipe or playing poker, or dressing them in human clothing. For me such depictions are demeaning. From the first time I put an animal in an unanticipated setting, I realized that it made the viewer look more closely at both the animal and the environment.
“Animals are not here just for our amusement, which is why I have mixed emotions about zoos,” he continues. “Zoos provide all of us with opportunities to see animals that would be otherwise impossible to encounter. But most zoo animals are just shells—they look okay, and sometimes less scarred and battered than their wild counterparts, but on the inside they are not what they are meant to be. The real tragedy is that human populations are expanding so exponentially that animals are being squeezed out, and in many instances the last place left for them is the artificial environment of a zoo.”
Palmore walks the line between silly and absurd by making his backgrounds seem copasetic even if unexpected. “I realized early on that the background is a critical part of the painting and that it can be the element which creates wit or surprise,” he says. “I’ve also learned that the background possibilities are infinite because they are only limited by my imagination.”
—Susan Hallsten McGarry