“I am dedicated to delving into the often-uncanny alchemy that creates meaning in the semantic spaces between symbols. It is this process that gives shape to the psychological impulses that guide my aesthetic choices.” - Tom Berenz
Tom Berenz, an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of Wisconsin, captures the ambiguity of representation, psychological processes, and interconnected, structural meanings in his distorted, but recognizable, cartoon-ish figures. Utilizing Looney Toon characters from the 50s and 60s, the artist draws on both nostalgia and a digital-age familiarity, a sentiment that can resonate with all ages. Working with acrylic on canvas, this contemporary artist abstracts various figures from contemporary cartoons, pop art and pop culture, reworking them into a fine art painting fantastically informed by cubism — evoking such 20th century masters as Pablo Picasso.
Tom places objects that seem separate on a single thematic surface, sometimes with an awkwardness that calls the viewer to take a second, more analytical, look. His pieces oscillate between superficial visual appeasement and a question he poses about the process of distilling oversaturated representation into psychological processes. Chaos presents itself unabashedly: a multiplicity of figures, all distinctly expressive, reverberate the diversity of people, emotions, ideologies, and political lenses that comprise our worldly experience. Using recognizable symbols and icons, Berenz references our individual and social experience of order and disorder in the modern age. With a clever wit and astute eye, the artist's paintings confront the viewer with a duality of visual processes and contextual meanings — forcing the viewer to work through these propositions to see the piece as a reflective, unique whole.
Tom’s paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally. He has been featured in multiple publications, most notably, New American Paintings and The Huffington Post. Tom has received numerous awards and accolades, including, Mary Nohl Fellow 2017, Best in Show, Wisconsin Triennale at The Museum of Wisconsin Art in 2016, Best Painting Award NWC Biennale – National Weather Center, 2013, and MFA Joan Mitchell, University of Wisconsin – Madison, WI, 2012. His work is in many public collections -- among them, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, Northwestern Mutual, and the University of Oklahoma. Berenz’ is a very active artist with exhibitions in 2022 in South Africa, Korea, Los Angeles, Taiwan, Australia, and Denmark.