ARTIST SPOTLIGHT #4 Tom Schulz: artist

artist spotlight Apr 07, 2016


“For twenty years, I’ve made art around issues of empathy. It’s been tricky. See, I knew that empathy was defined as an ability to sense or understand another's feelings. That seemed like something positive to aspire towards. But it also felt like a type of emotional colonialism.


I traced the word “empathy” back to an 1873 doctoral thesis written by Robert Vischer – philosophy so dense that I thought I would sink down into it, engulfed, until I remembered those old Tarzan movies, and implemented Johnny Weissmuller’s advice about quicksand; relaxing and allowing the knowledge to float up to the surface of my consciousness. Einfühlung – a way of “feeling into” ‘Big N’ Nature, or ‘Big A’ Art or ‘Big O’ Other.


Still, though I’d been researching empathy, I lacked a coherent model about how to make art that deals with it that felt right to me –that is, until lichen found me last January. Lichen, which is composed of two biological entities -fungus + alga, embodies a unique completion through mutualism. Dang. Symbiotic interaction as empathy. Our friend Vischer would have called this magical.


So, this brings me to:


Lichen offers radically appropriate lessons on empathy.


Like:  Mutuality does not harbor any negativity.

Or: It is not possible to thrive in a toxic environment.

And: Benefits exist within integrated communities.



Let’s see where the next 19 years take this investigation.”


Tom’s AWESOME video showing him painting his lichen landscape:


Tom’s website: Website:



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Paint on!


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