Austin Thomas’s site-specific
sculptures exist somewhere between theoretical architecture, social psychology
experiments, and an eccentric suburban backyard deck. These perches, as she often calls her sometimes
indoor, sometimes outdoor sculptures, offer a comfortable stopping-off point
for an individual or small group. Thomas
envisions each perch as multifunctional, offering a quiet respite for relaxing
or reading, providing a unique vantage point from which to take in the
surroundings, or encouraging social interaction. Rare is the viewer who does not intuitively
grasp that he or she is not only allowed to touch Thomas’s art but also to use,
climb, or sit on it. And people do.
Discovering one of Thomas’s
perches in an unlikely location can be thrilling. “You built a tree-fort in my museum!” might
be a response to her sculpture-a reaction that acknowledges, in Thomas’s case,
that tossing aside convention is as much a matter of imagination as it is of
defiance. Keen observers will note that
the perches lend themselves to a predictable change in behavior. The harried unwind; the tired rest. A talkative couple will suddenly become
silent for a few moments; self-absorbed students actually survey their
surroundings, and a quiet group will take over the perch like a small flock of
birds descending on a shrub and strike up a conversation.
might best describe Thomas’s collages and drawings. Twists of paper become miniature perches,
scenic overlooks are set in geometric landscapes, and floor plans emerge out of
bits and pieces of graphed and sketched schematics of life lived in the
pause. Here, Thomas perches.
twisted structures of her drawings also resemble flowers or mushrooms; they are
organic harmonies of space and color, and they have led to more abstract and
visionary perches as the beauty of Austin’s inner worlds, unsatisfied with
private serenity, inevitably spills outward.