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`IMAGINIST' TOMMY SIMPSON RELAYS MEANING THROUGH JOY

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The town of Lincoln, Mass. is recognizing Simpson appeal - Tommy Simpson, that is, an artist-craftsman who has become a master of delight.

Both the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park and the Clark Gallery are showing the works of Simpson in a celebration of art that is fanciful yet thoughtful.

The Connecticut-based Simpson is best-known for his furniture, but he works in many different media, creating panel paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, and toys as well.

Simpson describes himself as an ``imaginist'' who would like to ``gain credibility for delight as a meaningful part of existence.''

His work is a playful and surprising mix of image and message that often challenges popular culture and tradition.

Sometimes he uses the familiar to evoke a thought or pun. Many of Simpson's wood works for example, use ordinary bristles and scrub brushes, such as in ``Air Horses'' - a set of decorative sawhorses. His mixed-media piece titled ``That's It!'' illustrates how an idea is conceived: A lightning bolt travels between a ribcage of toothbrushes to a bone.

Enjoyment of his work is evidenced in a comment book at the DeCordova: ``I especially like the bed,'' wrote one child, speaking for many who had expressed the same thought. ``Buzzing Bed'' is part sculpture, part painting, part relief carving that incorporates dreamy nature and cosmic imagery. Long thin beehives adorn the bedposts, while colorful comets and sunbursts bolt around the headboard and footboard.

Trained as a painter, Simpson received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. He has had solo exhibits across the United States and received numerous grants. His pieces are in collections of the American Craft Museum in New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Hirschorn Collection in Washington; and others.

``Simpson is simply a `maker' who deftly blends utility, memory, irony, and spirituality in his accomplishments,'' writes Edward Cooke Jr. of the Society for Contemporary Crafts in the exhibition catalog.

``The presence of joy and spirit, for both maker and viewer/user, is the singular key to unlocking the work of Tommy Simpson and understanding his subtle commentary.''


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