It’s 4 p.m. on a tuesday and artist Tom Hoitsma is in his west Dallas studio and soaked with sweat. A damp towel sits nearby on a messy counter covered with paints and brushes. Jackson Browne plays in the background. He has two more hours of painting ahead, and that’s fine with him. Hoitsma is having a moment, one that from all indications is on its way to stretch into a career game changer.
“The goal is to change the air in the room,” he says of his work. It’s a feeling he achieves by layering paint on canvases as big as 96 by 75 inches and stretched over 3-inch-deep frames. The overall effect gives each piece a sculptural quality. “It stands out from the wall almost like a relief. It gives it a weightiness, another dimension, and that’s the whole point,” Hoitsma says.
The artist’s new series of paintings are full of turbulent energy. “All my painting is inspired by place and time,” he says. “Today, we are living in a highly divisive and polarizing time. My work cannot exist outside of that energy.”
Recently added to the curated stable of artists at the lauded Christopher Martin Gallery, Hoitsma’s large-scale works recall his inspirations, Franz Kline and Frank Stella. With the last year yielding five shows in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami and Palm Beach, his gestural abstract paintings are resonating with collectors.
“Abstract painting is a lot closer to writing a poem than it is to writing nonfiction or reporting the news. It’s all based on intuition and a tactile, visual experience. It takes many, many hours but eventually each painting will finally come alive visually with a vibrance all of its own. And that’s the thing that I chase—that lyrical sense,” Hoitsma says. “It seems that this particular series of work I’m doing now is really resonating with collectors and galleries. I keep being told that it is filling a void in what they are showing. Nobody is doing this large-scale, vibrant, bold, gestural work.”
As much physical energy goes into the work as mental. “When I’m done painting, I am soaked from head to toe,” he says. “Honestly, I believe one of the reasons you don’t see much gestural abstract painting on this scale is because I don’t know if I could do this if I wasn’t as big as I am. It’s really physical work.”
Raised in an artistic family in New Jersey—all of Hoitsma’s siblings are musicians, and his mother is a novelist—he graduated with a degree in sculpture from Skidmore College and soon after found himself working in the art world in New York City. He and one of his best friends, Stuart Regen, the late Los Angeles gallerist, worked with the highly respected Barbara Gladstone at her namesake gallery in SoHo.
Hoitsma came to Dallas in the mid-1980s at the invitation of a friend and began a television production company while continuing to paint. Today, he is the creator and executive producer of The Texas Music Scene, an award-winning music documentary series hosted by ACM-winning Texas music legend Jack Ingram and featuring Texas musicians such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Earl Keen. *
Jeff Hampton is a freelance writer based in Garland, Texas. Find out more at jeffhamptonwriter.com.