Artistic Playlist: “Tom Wilson: Super-Realist/Surrealist” at the Biggs Museum


Kelli Steele of Delaware Public Media presents the Biggs Museum of American Art’s new Tom Wilson exhibition with curator Laura Fravel

The Biggs American Art Museum new exhibition highlights the work of a late Sussex county painter and photographer.

Tom Wilson: super realistic/surreal presents nearly 50 pieces by the artist Lewes.

Wilson first worked as a model in New York and Paris in the 1970s.

But the Biggs’ new curator, Laura Fravel, says that in 1981 he returned home to paint, working until his death in 1995 from complications of AIDS.

“While he was modeling in Paris and Milan, he was doing these surreal images and dot paintings, which were a way to use extra paint on the palette, but also to get into more portraits – and I think some of the more complex portraits.”

Biggs American Art Museum

Laura Fravel, curator of the Biggs Museum of American Art

Fravel says that one of these portraits was “Wendell”, the very first person to cross-dress in Rehoboth Beach.

She notes that there is also a chart titled “Inez at Dover.” Inez was a hot pink 1959 Dodge owned by Wilson.

“It surprised me a lot working on the show – how crazy he was about cars,” Fravel said. “When he was assembling the photo collages, I found a whole folder of extra cars that he kept and cut out so he could paste extra cars in the background.”

Tom Wilson studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Wilson also had an extensive network of friends and supporters in Delaware. He was artistic director of the Back Porch Café for many years, where he forged strong ties with the beach community.

Inspired by the popularity of the Wilson exhibit, the Biggs extended its hours on weekends. The Biggs will be open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information on Tom Wilson, you can watch this short documentary:

Artistic coverage by Delaware Public Media is made possible, in part, through support from the Delaware Arts Divisiona state agency dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Foundation for the Arts.


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