Thomas Coleman (1935-1971)
“Tom’s work habits were rooted in Midwestern traditions. His labor was rhythmic and persistent. His imagery was to some extent Midwestern. It stemmed for the most part from his own experience. … Tom spoke little of composition, was much concerned with drawing skills, was widely tolerant of ideas and got from his students an extraordinary aggregate of enthusiasm, quality workmanship and individually structured thought.” — James Eisentrager Thomas Coleman’s often complicated images are derived from humanistic subjects. After his graduate student days at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, his prints in 1961 are from the traditional stock of Biblical and Greco-Roman themes that have been used since the Renaissance. During the final year of graduate school, three of Coleman’s prints, “Actor,” “Personal Muse” and “Dream of Max B.” seemed Goyaesque in their distribution of light and dark tones and solemn mood. His irritation at senseless destruction can be seen in “Cropduster” and “Midwestern Landscape.” Many of his prints also featured his wife and children. Although most of his works are of a serious nature, some pieces are lighthearted jibes at pointless activities, such as “Study for Sculpture,” an image centered on a pizza eating contest, complete with cheerleaders. Coleman joined the University of Nebraska art department in 1963 and ran the intaglio area. He then added lithography to his program in 1966. From 1964 to 1970, Coleman had one-man shows at colleges and museums such as the Minneapolis School of Art; Wichita Art Museum, Kansas; Amarillo College, Texas; Colorado State University, Fort Collins; Plymouth State College, New Hampshire; Wisconsin State College, Stevens Point; and Doane, Hastings, Concordia and Midland colleges in Nebraska. A memorial exhibition of his work was shown at the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln in 1972. Comments from Jon Nelson contributed to this biography.