Artist Tom Sommerville says that the people who own and work at Artisan Works 565 Blossom Rd. like him just the way he is. They have no interest in changing him or his style of painting. This attitude is always important but even more so for Sommerville who is openly gay and a 20 year AIDS survivor.
Sommerville uses his painting to record his culture; that is the way he sees his world as a gay man who is living with AIDS. Part of that culture is painting men nude men. Sommerville says that men are more interesting. When asked why he prefers to paint nudes Sommerville said, ” it makes the person more universal. Clothing gives you a lot of specific information about the subject.” Artisan Works owner Louis Perticone believes in letting an artist develop his own vision as opposed to dictating what work the artist creates. Sommerville believes that life itself provides inspiration. “Just take a walk down the street,” says Sommerville. Tom remembers his mother giving him paper and crayons in the highchair as a defense against Tom drawing on the walls. He also took classes all during school but did not become serious about painting until after his diagnosis of AIDS and he became a part of AIDS Art Alive a not for profit organisation which teaches art to people with HIV/AIDS as a form of an emotional outlet. Sommerville currently has abut 20 pieces of artwork housed at Artisan Works. However; not all of the paintings are on display as a part of the Elizabeth Collection.
Artisan Works is a 40,000 square foot facility which contains the Elizabeth Collection named for Perticone’s mother. The Gallery also has some 25 artists in residence. Sommerville has a small but cheery studio at Artisan Works where he can frequently be seen with his dog Kahlo.
Artisan Works is open seven days a week. Artwork is not just housed at the gallery, art lives there. Unlike most galleries visitors may touch and interact with the art work. Art work is purchased outright from an artist instead of displaying the art at a charge to the artist. All artwork at the gallery is for sale. Artisan Works depends on memberships of patrons to support and subsidise its artists. Funding difficulties have forced Artisan Works to put a hold on any further art acquisitions for the moment. Memberships begin at $25 for students; and the gallery is gay friendly allowing gay couple and families to purchase a family membership (call 288-7170 for more details).
Artisan Works and the staff at the gallery accept and support Tom Sommerville just the way he is a gay man who enjoys painting other men.