Waz Thomas: Making the Cut



September 11, 2023

Arts and Creativity

September 11, 2023 - October 20, 2023

~Public reception Sunday, October 1~

Gallery Commonweal is honored to present Making the Cut, an exhibition of works on paper created between 2015 and 2022 by Bolinas-based artist and Commonweal community anchor Waz Thomas.

For the past four decades, Waz Thomas has been practicing a private creative ritual under cover of natural darkness, preferring to work in the glow of artificial light. Each night from 11PM until 3AM, he retreats to a room in his cottage dedicated to this ritual, a room filled with a diverse array of books, magazines, boxes of torn pages and fragments of image and text. There is a standing desk with a cutting board, X-Acto knives and a set of small yellow sewing scissors, lit by two lamps. Here, Waz searches, selects, dissects; then, he begins to free-associate, intuitively shaping surreal scenes and chimeric creatures. He often listens to music across a wide variety of genres—world, post-punk, funk, country, reggae, and more—while making his cuts. Waz’s art is made spontaneously, with a conscious surrender to chance. “The creative process is a form of meditation… I don’t know what will happen before it happens,” he says. “I just start moving pieces of paper around.”

Waz often refers to his works as “ironic juxtapositions”: a giant retro television set sits abandoned and partially buried in the middle of an endless desert landscape; a massive dripping sandwich rests on the sterile metal slab of an airport terminal bench; a variegated leaf the size of a doorway emerges like a keyhole from the roofline of a mosque; an antique etching of a cabbage censors a muscular, fishnet-adorned male groin; a kitschy drawing of a young Victorian girl holding a rose rests placidly beside a copy of Hooters magazine peeking from the back of an airline seat. Though “people call them collages, they’re more like montages,” Waz says. Each piece can be approached as a film still, a vision suspended from context, which the viewer is invited to place within their own imagined movie. Waz positions the scene, and then it is up to us to decide what it means.

Waz is a prolific creator; he’ll often make up to eight pieces of varying sizes in a night. The works on view in Making the Cut represent only a small percentage of his oeuvre, which continues to grow on a nightly basis.

About the Artist            

Waz Thomas was born in Memphis in 1943 and lived and worked in Cleveland before moving to San Francisco in 1977. While living and teaching at the Integral Yoga Institute, Waz met Michael Lerner, who, in 1984, invited him to move to Bolinas to be part of Commonweal. For 25 years, Waz acted as general manager for the organization; he is also a co-founder of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, taught yoga for many years to its participants, and currently serves as its intake coordinator and senior advisor. Michael Lerner calls him the “heart” of Commonweal.              


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