Arts

Artist Tom Cramer Explores Variety of Styles

OPB | Nov. 8, 2012 7:15 a.m.

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Local artist Tom Cramer has explored many different mediums for the expression of his talents. View a small sampling of his various works.

From colorful murals to quirky art cars to costumes worn by Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers, you may have encountered Tom Cramer‘s artwork in and around the Portland area over the last 30 years.

Renowned for his range of artistic styles, Cramer says his work is a product of the environments in which he has lived and worked — both nationally and overseas — and is inspired by a variety of cultures, including African American, indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and many others.

An Oregon native, Cramer attended high school at Catlin Gabel School in Portland where he was a classmate of Northwest filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Cramer later attended the Pacific Northwest College of Art, as well as Brooklyn, New York’s Pratt Institute. Since then he has created art at various locations around the country, but still calls Portland home.

Tom Cramer at the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland

Tom Cramer at the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland

Courtesey Tom Cramer

Cramer began his exploration into the art world in the 1970s with drawing, and he credits much of the development of this craft to his connection with local Oregon artist and luminary Manuel Izquierdo.

Cramer notes that the colorful forms and shapes that came to embody his work during the 1990s, such as on the very large mural on the corner of North Williams Avenue and Shaver Street in Portland, were inspired by the African-American community where his work was created.

“Black culture has a very large influence on American culture and I’ve always believed that early work was informed by strong references to that community and African themes in general,” says Cramer.

At first glance, Cramer’s murals might be considered reminiscent of the work of the late artist Keith Haring. Haring was famous for his energetic and brightly colored depictions of playful and expressive human forms which became ubiquitous in the late ‘80s and early 1990s.

A mural entitled "Tuttomondo" by Keith Haring in Pisa, Italy

A mural entitled "Tuttomondo" by Keith Haring in Pisa, Italy

Sean Thomas

“If there was an artist that defined the art scene and pop art of the ‘80s, it was Keith Haring,” Cramer says, noting that Haring’s role was like that of artist Peter Max, introducing an approachable and “innocent boldness” that captured America’s attention.

Since the 1990s, Cramer’s works have shown a steady evolution. He now employs a less vibrant color palette and focuses more on pattern, shape and texture.

“My current work emerged in the later 1990s and is an attempt to merge painting and relief woodcarving. The labor-intensive aspect of the recent work is intended to be consistent with their content. I am therefore especially influenced by recent trips to India, Egypt and Europe.”

Cramer was recently profiled on Oregon Art Beat, and you can see his work at the Laura Russo Gallery in Northwest Portland.

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