Inspired by his experiences with his wife Sheri and their friends while living in California's wine country, Thomas toasts life's simple delights with his bronze sculpture collection "Celebration of the Vine."
Thomas' sculptures depict a modern-day Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and his beautiful Muse as they celebrate wine and life. In the four pieces in the "Celebration of the Vine Collection," Bacchus and his Muse are in exuberant motion, sharing grapes, wine and each other.
Each piece is a different moment during the wine tasting experience. In "Grand Opening," the characters eagerly await the cork's pop, signaling the beginning of a wonderful night. "Loving Life" depicts Bacchus sweeping his gleeful Muse off her feet, raising a dramatic toast to life. The pieces, Thomas says, are meant to bring out the fun in life and wine.
"'Loving Life' is an exultation of wine itself," he says. "Wine is an amazing creation of the gods. It brings out the best and the joy of life." "Grand Opening" is the expectation of opening the bottle of wine and that first glorious sip.
Thomas first began sculpting in stone 10 years ago, but was frustrated by both the material and the time it took to create a piece. As his work progressed to more figurative pieces, he realized that creating such fluid, detailed movement in stone was nearly impossible.
"The stone was very good because it developed my eye and my patience to do this kind of work, but it is much more freeing and flexible with clay," he says.
Thomas tries to instill a festive, uplifting feeling not only in his characters, but also in the viewers. There are no deeper meanings behind Bacchus and his Muse, he says, just pure happiness.
"I really don't want a morose, deeply self-examining piece," he says. "What you see is what you get. You can read into them what you want, but my efforts are into really creating a beautiful feeling."
Too often, Thomas says work that tries to promote this good feeling is not taken seriously by the art world. Unable to classify his work, some call it "whimsical."
"I always cringe because that doesn't give it the classical beauty it deserves," he says. "Just because it puts people in a happy place doesn't mean it's whimsical. They can't find a spot for it in their minds."
Thomas' latest piece is the first bronze in a new series, "Ladies of the Vine." A bronze nude cups a handful of overflowing grapes as the vines curl around her body and hair in "The Offering." This muse stands alone, a surprisingly quiet contrast to the raucous, joyful Bacchus sculptures.
Each sensual nude sculpture in the "Ladies of the Vine" series offers Thomas a new challenge as he creates a different piece for a different kind of wine.
"Wine is a product that Mother Earth is giving us. I thought, 'What would the goddess of wine look like?'" he says. "Basically, it was finding almost a body type that matches a type of wine."
He is also creating another piece for the "Celebration of the Vine" series called "Rush to Crush" featuring Bacchus and his Muses (this piece will have two muses). His work is displayed and collected by several wine and art enthusiasts, and his pieces are represented in two California-based galleries: Art on Main Gallery in Napa Valley and Richard Danskin Galleries in Palm Desert.
Despite his expressive works, Thomas does not believe he is outgoing by nature. However, he feels a quiet satisfaction at the completion of each piece, knowing it is an expression of his own joyful experience with wine.
"You sit back and look at the sculpture and feel its beauty," he says. "It's a perfect expression of what I wish to communicate."
LOCATION: Woodland Hills, Calif. Napa Valley, Calif.
YEARS IN THE BUSINESS: 10 years
AWARDS/RECOGNITIONS: Award of Excellence for "The Offering," American Juried Art Salon, spring 2010: Award of Merit for "Grand Opening," American Juried Art Salon, spring 2009