The American artist was born in 1928 in Jerry City, Ohio. Tom Doyle discovered his passion for sculpture while watching the village blacksmith. In 1953, he earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Ohio University. While Doyle was still a student, famous artists Roy Lichtenstein and Stanley Twardowicz took him under their wing. In 1957, he moved to New York and became friends with painter Frank Kline.
Doyle was heavily influenced by abstract expressionism and was fascinated with cantilevered installations (elements supported by other elements that are themselves in midair). Made primarily of wood, his sculptures give the strange impression of being rough, massive structures that might just float away. Ranging in size from small to colossal, Doyle’s sculptures seem to defy gravity and exist in perfect balance.
His work has been seen in various museums in the US, including the Brooklyn Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Walker Art Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art. His work has also been showcased in galleries in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France and Italy. Tom Doyle died in 2016 in Connecticut.
Built as monumental echoes of abstract expressionist paintings, Tom Doyle’s sculptures are not merely contemplative objects or figurative monolithic landscapes. As he himself put it, “It is more of a place that one can move about in physically and spiritually as in the manner of the ancient Cairns and Dolmens” (piles of stones erected by explorers to denote their passage). The artist carved in wood such as cherry, oak and butternut to create sculptures that followed trees’ natural lines for guidance and inspiration. He did not strive for a predetermined form, instead following the cuts and then building a structure to support the resulting shapes.
Created in 1996, Samhin was originally made of cherry and oak. It was then cast in bronze in 2013 to ensure its longevity. In Celtic mythology, “Samhin” is a festival marking the beginning of the darker half of the year (winter). Representing the passage to the other world (the new year), the day was rife with magical and mystical events. Doyle’s arch-shaped sculpture invites us to walk under it, symbolizing the notion of passage.