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Bruce Thorn

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Lives in

Works in


SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), 1975, BFA
UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago), 1987, MFA

abstract painting abstract, metaphorical abstraction, international style, linoleum block prints, etching, abstract, relief prints, print making, works on paper, gouache, Oil Painting painting





Abstraction, invention, imagination, exploration and metaphor are the basis of my artwork. The goal is for viewers to make new discoveries with each encounter. This work attempts to offer multiple interpretations while challenging our processes of forming associations and meaning. Just as life often leads to unknown surprises, I explore journeys rather than specific destinations.

Color fields and meandering line often serve as the beginning of a process, suggesting organic, anthropomorphic and geometric forms, spaces and interactions. Such artwork could be described as “metaphorical abstraction.” Narrative has been discarded and replaced by a language of color, shape, line and movement. Simplified visual means are utilized to enable complex results.

I accept the notion that life confronts us with chaos. Art can help us come to terms with this chaos. Each day I go into the studio to work and it is if I’ve never been there before. Everything must be relearned and explored on a daily basis, keeping it fresh and inspired. I try to approach this work with an attitude of playfulness, openness and discovery by blending the analytical, intuitive and mystical. 



Bruce Thorn was born on Chicago’s Southside in 1952. He grew up during an era when kids hung out together in real time and the personal was of significance. Surrounded by the civil rights movement, violent riots, anti-war protests, widespread police brutality and the 1960’s cultural revolution, children were taught to hide under school desks in preparation for imminent Russian nuclear attack. During the April, 1968 Chicago riots, which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Mayor Daley ordered police to “shoot to kill.” That August, at the Democratic Conventions, the Mayor directed uniformed goon squads to beat protestors while the whole world was watching events unfold in real time on television. Thorn found solace in drawing and decided to become a painter while a teenager. From the beginning, his artwork reflected the intensity, complexity and introspection of the times. 

Visits to the Art Institute of Chicago were some of his most memorable childhood experiences. Works by Ivan Albright, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya, Dali, Jackson Pollock, deKooning, Matisse and the Impressionists, along with Buddhist, Native Indian, African and Japanese art made huge impressions and elevated the significance of the arts in Thorn’s world view. The Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, the Oriental Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry were also favorite destinations, incredible sources of inspiration for many of his early drawings and paintings.

Bruce has traveled and painted in Canada, Africa and Europe. An international perspective is evident in his approach to art and life. This is an artist who invites exploration, change, different voices and viewpoints. While acknowledging the significance of place for its role in the formation of character, Thorn’s artwork actively seeks outside influences, continual growth and a curious look into the unknown. Thorn also lived for ten years in Oregon, where the natural environment and old growth forests had a huge impact on his thinking. He became an avid hiker and wilderness back packer, bringing along paints and poems far back into the Siskiyou, Coastal and Cascade mountains. The mystery, balance and immense force the natural world became his points of departure and of return, the dynamo and theme of his artwork. 

Thorn earned a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1975 and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1987.  He has maintained a vibrant art practice throughout his life.  His works have been exhibited in the United States, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the Netherlands.




2011 Union League Club, Chicago, IL

2005 Hyde Park Art Center, Loop Gallery, Chicago, IL
1996 Zaks Gallery, Chicago, IL
1994 Davidson Galleries, Seattle, WA


2006 Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, with Liz Quisgard
2003 Crown Gallery, Loyola College, Chicago, IL, with Imfriede Lagerkvist
1986 Zaks Gallery, Chicago, IL, with Bruce Thayer


2009 Studio Exhibition with William Conger, Michael Miller, Susan Michod, Dennis Kowalski, Chuck Walker, Paul Lamantia, Arthur Lerner

2006 Abstract Imagism, Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery, Chicago

2004 4th Triennale Graphic Prague 2004, The Czech Museum of Fine Arts
2001 Influences, Arena Gallery, Chicago, IL
2000 Les Chemical Carnales, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, IL
1989 Invitational, Artemesia Gallery, Chicago, IL
1986 Fetish Art: Obsessive Expressions, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL

2007 The Artist Project, Chicago, IL

2004 War and Peace, Gallery 415, Chicago IL

2004 2nd LUC Print Biennial, Loyola University, Chicago, IL
2003 Prints U.S.A. 2003, Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, MO
2003 New Prints 2003, Fall, International Center for the Print, New York, NY
2003 The Chicago Solution Show, Gallery on Lake, Chicago, IL
1995 Oregon Biennial, Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR


1994 Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York, NY


2011 Foundation Slak, Arnhem, Netherlands, April 7-27

2006 Foundation Slak, Arnhem, Netherlands, Feb. 1-Mar. 30

Roger Brown Study Collection, Chicago, IL

St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN

BIBLIOGRAPHY, Nov. 06, 09, Feb. 12, 2009, April 11, 2008

Hyde Park Herald, Nov. 29, 2000

Chicago Daily News, August 24, 1979


1987 MFA in Painting, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL

1975 BFA in Painting and Drawing, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL















Recent Exhibits

Bruce Thorn participated in these exhibits:

Aug, 2013 Selections from the Permanent Collection: Made in Chicago and Chicago's Bauhaus Legacy
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA)
Apr, 2013 Subconscious Eye
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA)
Jan, 2011 INTENSITY group show
Gallery@220 - a Pop-Up Art Loop™ Gallery
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