» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

July 23, 2003
SARAH PETERS > The works of Tom Stack fill me with a certain whimsy and curiosity. The first time I saw one of his expressively simple works, putting birds in a quirky human context, I wanted to spread the word about his work. Thankfully, with .22's The Patriots and Silkworm's upcoming It'll Be Cool, Stack takes care of some of the legwork for me - there will be a larger audience who can stand, endeared, and ask themselves, "Where'd this guy come from?" Tom took some time with LAS to tell the world just that.

LAS: Tell us about yourself. How did you start out in all this?

Tom Stack: I am 32 years old and live in Milwaukee, WI with my wife, Adrienne, and our cat, Sticky. I'm a degreed electrical engineer and a self-taught painter. I first started painting about 7 years ago. At the time, I was working at an odd little family grocery store and a couple of co-workers that I was friendly with were painting students at MIAD (the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design). I hung out at their studio spaces a couple of times and immediately sensed that this - Painting - was something that I wanted to do. I acquired some materials and have been at it steadily ever since.

My early work was kind of all over the place. Some non-objective stuff, some figurative stuff - but always pretty flat and somewhat minimalistic. I then had something of a personal breakthrough with a couple of paintings featuring what I call Robot-men. About that time (mid-1999) my wife and I, neither of us sure that we wanted to live in Milwaukee indefinitely, decided to move to Massachusetts. After several months, it became clear that we both missed many aspects of living in the Midwest, and once our lease was up we decided to move back. Back to Milwaukee.

I did not paint the entire year I was in Massachusetts, but thought about it constantly and did work out a good number of drawings that would be used for future paintings. These featured more Robot-men, then Hotdog-men, and then this gun-wielding cartoon dog named Jesse James. And then the occasional bird. I used to eat my lunch along the ocean everyday and there was always a fair amount of birds to look at - mainly gulls, shorebirds and cormorants. Also, I had always been a big fan of pigeons and worked with a guy there who kept racing pigeons - a visit to his pigeon loft made a big impact.

Anyhow, shortly after returning to Milwaukee I rented a warehouse painting studio space with a couple of friends and got back to painting. I was cranking out about a painting a week and refining my techniques along the way. Mainly working through the drawings from Massachusetts. It was weird, but somehow it seemed that I had improved quite a bit as a painter during my time away from it. And then...

LAS: What made you do The Bird Series?

TS: One night I drew a single shorebird from memory which then became the first painting, "Shorebird. You Can't Deny.", of The Bird Series. When one of my studio-mates saw the finished work, he offhandedly said, "You should only paint birds". His comment stuck with me. I took him literally and have been at it steadily ever since.

Birds With Shirts.

LAS: From the "Birds With Shirts." painting, you seem to have a fun sense of humor. How do you incorporate that into your work?

TS: I guess I try to incorporate a part of myself into the work. And humor is a pretty important thing to me, so it makes its way into the paintings as well. But I try not to force anything. Birds have been a great vehicle (like little planes?) in this regard. I like the fact that as creatures their faces are expressionless. I make use of this in the paintings - whether the bird is just a bird or standing in for a human.

Never play poker with a bird.

LAS: Conversely, in "Prairie Chicken. Lifespan." you show it's not all fun and games. What do you feel you express in pictures such as these?

TS: A certain ache.

LAS: Where might people have seen your work?

TS: If you've been to my house, there's a good chance you've seen my work. It's hanging all over the place. You should stop over and have a look if you're in the neighborhood.

Otherwise, your best bet is www.stackmatic.com.

Longings. Egrets.

LAS: You appear in album artwork for .22 and Silkworm. How did that come about? Are you a fan?

TS: I've been a fan of the rock band Silkworm since first hearing them back in 1994. I became a huge fan after finally getting a chance to see them live in the fall of 2000. During the past couple of years I've probably listened to them and (Smog) and M.O.T.O. more than anything else. I will go out of my way to see any of these bands live whenever I have the chance. They are all that good to me.

Anyhow, I struck up a conversation with Tim from Silkworm following one of their shows at the Cactus Club here in Milwaukee. We seemed to instantly hit it off on a number of levels and have remained in real or virtual contact ever since. I have great respect for him, Michael and Andy - as individuals and as a band. Then, last fall, Tim contacted me about providing a line drawing of a chimp, in a tuxedo, smoking and drinking for possible use on an upcoming album. Said line drawing is now printed on the CD and inner tray of their fine new album, It'll Be Cool.

I first learned of the rock band .22 through Tim's recommendation of their album The Worker. Shortly thereafter I saw them play a show with Silkworm in Chicago. At the finish of their set, I took a seat at the bar to watch the end of a White Sox game and found myself sitting next to their drummer, and mutual Sox fan, Brad. Again, he and I seemed to instantly hit it off on a number of levels and have remained in contact ever since. I have great respect for him, Brian and Lindsey - as individuals and as a band. Then, also last fall, Brad contacted me about possibly using my "Birds With Shirts." painting as the artwork for their upcoming album,
The Patriots. Said painting now adorns the cover and much of the packaging of this fine album.

In each case I am very pleased with the treatment my images were afforded and it is a personal honor to have my work associated with each of these fine

Discovery Of The Third Dimension. With Pigeon.

LAS: What do you listen to while you create?

TS: My brain. And a looped tape of peeping chicks.

LAS: Artistically, whose style is a kindred spirit to yours?

TS: The closest thing I know of is the work of Chris Kerr. He lives in Chicago. You should have a look -

LAS: What is your favorite bird, and why?

TS: The city pigeon. Because it is the everyman of the bird population. That and the constant head bobbing.

Courtroom Scene. Pheasant At Close Range.

LAS: Do any of your pictures, in particular, tell a story? "Courtroom Scene." for one, looks compelling. What's going on for these characters? Are they all part of a larger story?

TS: The pheasant in "Courtroom Scene. Pheasant At Close Range." is Sean Penn. From the closing scene of the film At Close Range.

The rest are just birds being birds. Or birds being people. People other than Sean Penn.

LAS: What's next on the docket for you?

TS: I might go downstairs and get something to drink.

SEE ALSO: www.stackmatic.com

Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other articles by Sarah Peters.



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