The Film: Tom’s Clan 2017-07-15T01:16:20+00:00


Tom’s Clan is a short documentary that profiles the sculptural work of California artist Thomas Long and his intriguing tribe of multi-cultural characters. Carved in wood over a span of thirty years, artist Thomas Long has drawn from his travels to Central America, Mexico and the southwestern United States to create a tribe of enigmatic characters. This eclectic mix of influences is revealed in the work as a truly multi-cultural manifestation of the artist’s travels. Ranging from humorous to ominous, the clan possesses an alluring quality reminiscent of Inca, Aztec and ancient Egyptian artwork. The film captures Tom’s creative process in a series of vignettes where he details the myth and his motivation for each character in his clan. Interwoven between these stories we witness the process as he shapes a new character into human form. Working out of a classic live/work warehouse space in a tourist town bent on erasing all remnants of funk, Tom finds himself priced out of his home and studio. Will he continue assembling his tribe or let it be subsumed by the forces of gentrification?

Thomas Long in the doorway of his studio prior to closure in 2017

Familiar motifs but largely unlike anything you’ve encountered before.

As the film reveals through a year-in-the-life journey that captures the creation of a new piece, at their core, the sculptures reflect the traditional mallet and chisel style of wood carving practiced all over the world for as long as their have been artists on the earth. It’s the detail and embellishments that make the work exceptional. Gold and silver leaf and the deep pallet of color applied to each piece with aniline dyes and milk paint creates a rich and unusual character. An eclectic range of adornments also enhance the overall effect. These range from cast silver amulets to wildly colored horse hair to Egyptian mummy beads. Many of the pieces reflects a subtle humor as if Long is encouraging us not to take it all too seriously. This is part of the works alluring quality. Some of the later pieces include elaborate detail while the earlier work is more hand-hewn and organic. The overall effect is engaging and hugely entertaining to appreciate.

Parrot God

“…it unfolds and you problem solve and you get the results and when it’s done I like ’em”

Thomas Long

“Wow, this is a multitude of cultures all rolled into one.”

Overheard commentary

“I think that part of doing these is the exploration of new ideas, new material, new influences.”

Thomas Long