Tom Spleth

Salvage Operation was printed in four colors from four plates (alternating dry-point and photo-lithography plates). The print was inspired by Japanese funerary urns, and meant to capture a sense of moonlight in the dead of night. This moment of somber contemplation echoes a belief in the Japanese funerary tradition, which dictates that a person’s final gift to the world is the gathering of his or her family in commemoration of the death. Salvage Operation evokes moments of repair and reunion, and perhaps a final offering from the dead to the living.

On the Cosmology of an Alternative Universe is a 6 run, 6 color, lithograph with intaglio. The first three layers are printed from lithographic plates.  The paper was then soaked and one of two dry-point intaglio plates, drawn with sandpaper, were printed in a light colored ink. The ink was allowed to oxidize on the plate to achieve the intentional variation of color within the mark. These dry-point plates are the reason for the variability in the edition. The fifth layer was printed from a lithographic plate in a silvery black that allows the previous intaglio layer to show through as a series of ghostly graphite marks. For the sixth and final layer the paper was again soaked and another dry-point plate was printed in black ink.

On the Cosmology of an Alternative Universe began with the final dry-point plate, a conversation, and an experience.  Walking from his house to his studio in the Mountains of North Carolina the morning after a premature freeze that had blackened the leaves in a field of tall weeds, Spleth experienced a rare moment of harmony in the forest.  For just a few seconds, as a wind blew through the trees, all of the blackened leaves pointed in exactly the same direction.  This experience was the beginning of his desire to create a work that allows one to view of the forest and the trees at the same time. On the Cosmology of an Alternative Universerealizes this concept in a 2-d format.

Chinatown is a 6 run, 7-color lithograph printed from stone and plate and is based on the artist’s experiences staying in Chinatown while working on prints at RBPMW. Spleth felt that the repeated layering of painted and repainted signs and crates in Chinatown echoes the way he approaches surface treatment in both his two-dimensional and three dimensional work. Chinatown explores the repetition of a single thought or stroke, demonstrating the perseverance of a single thought over time in the specific, bold color palette of New York’s Chinatown. The printing process allowed Spleth to have a record of each mark on the paper, maintaining the history of the evolution of his concepts and marks while still allowing him to visually react to each layer.

About the artist

Tom Spleth is a nationally renowned, North Carolina based artist who is well known in the fine arts ceramics community. In his career, he pioneered fine art slip casting, was tenured at Alfred University, and has shown extensively nationally and internationally. His solo retrospective of 2-D and 3-D work opened at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design in North Carolina. You can see more of Spleth’s work at

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