States of Independence
Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity

Looking twice with Torey Thornton

OHWOW selects the painter and sculptor bringing his subtle mind-stretchers from Brooklyn to LA

"Jump Over The Loose Rung"
"Jump Over The Loose Rung" (2014) Torey Thornton

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. 

Today, for new artist day, we've turned the site over to our favourite independent galleries to tell us their favourite, freshest American visual artists. From Antoine Catala's ET portraits to Devin Kkenny's rap happenings, dig in and take note. 

With a forthcoming solo exhibition at OHWOW's Los Angeles space, the profile of Brooklyn-based artist Torey Thornton is set to rise in the second half of 2014. Working primarily in painting and sculpture, Thornton has been obsessing over how the mind perceives images in those mediums; subsequently, he aims to confound those perceptions. His multivalent symbols – is that a line or a table-top? A toy car or a real car? – lend his paintings a sense of familiarity and surrealism, and all at once. The sculptures, meanwhile, use found objects or are created from scratch to similarly distort our expectations. The mind sees what it wants to see, and Thornton is an artist who all-too readily plays with this notion. Selected by OHWOW for our new artist day, we talked to their newest talent about childhood drawings and current inspirations. 

When did you decide to become an artist?

I've made drawings since I was super little. My mom has this small drawing, on a sheet of ripped yellow legal paper, that is supposedly of her kneeling down praying. I think that was made when i was around 3 or 4, maybe younger?  It's super loose and gentle. The generally aimless drawings transformed into me attempting to render things correctly, then that later lead to the painting and sculpture. I started painting more properly, with oil paint and such, in high school. I never really saw making art as an option until I realized that I needed to eventually apply to colleges and I wasn't quite sure what my focus should be on, or what my options were in terms of choosing a major. I think through that thought process, along with reading and learning about artists from the past, I sort of imagined that being an artist was a semi-viable life option. At least I'd be happy, I guessed? I was always obsessed with creating so there is no way that I wasn't going to continue doing that, no matter what the circumstances.

What is inspiring you right now?

That's a very tough question because the answer could go anywhere but maybe thats the point. Generally speaking I nerd out on lots of things that have little to do with art but I scramble these things in my brain and sort of bring them full circle to being still related to me making art. These things are what allow me to continue to try looking out of the box as much as possible. I'm inspired by many things, from fashion and the material choices chosen to make garments all the way to the manner in which someone has their scrap metal bound and piled on top of some found, modified grocery cart. Of course I have so many artists who inspire me but that list is too long and very difficult to narrow down. The New York streets are extremely inspiring and nothing will ever change that. That is also the main reason why I can never see myself fully moving from here.

Is there an individual who has helped you get to where you are as an artist today? 

My mom has definitely helped and supported me more than anyone else ever will. Mega thanks forever and so on.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice? 

Both my sculptures and my paintings sit in a space between abstraction and figuration, or more recognizable elements. I'm always playing with what the perception of things in the work are, and attempting to build imagery or objects that go in and out of focus in a way. What appears to be a rotten lemon to one person could be a deflated, burnt basketball to someone else. Both these readings are just fine.

More Arts+Culture