Thomas Loeser (1956 - )

Birth date: 1956 Death date:  
Birth location: Death location:  
Media: Decorative Art , Furniture , Wood Web site:
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Thomas Loeser

Born in 1956 in Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas Loeser is an internationally-known studio furniture artist and professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Loeser’s first exposure to woodworking occurred when he worked in a wood shop during the summer after he graduated from high school; he did not actively pursue woodworking while earning a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Haverford College, in Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1979, Loeser took a summer class at Boston University’s Program in Artisanry, and decided to enroll in the university’s undergraduate program in Furniture Design. Brimming with talent, Loeser began to develop an international reputation even before graduation: in 1982, he won a silver medal  for his furniture work from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in England. It was also in 1982 that Loeser became famous for his unique design of a folding chair. The chair, made from one piece of plywood, could be collapsed into a flat piece and stored on a wall when not in use. Although entirely functional as a chair, it was also decorative and resembled an abstract painting when hung on a wall. Loeser graduated from Boston University with a B.F.A. in Furniture Design in 1983.

Throughout the next decade, he ran a shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making one-of-a-kind furniture. During this time, he also taught as a sabbatical replacement, and he developed an interest in teaching, which lead to him earning a M.F.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts in 1993. A pivotal period in Loeser’s life, it was also around this time that he was hired as the head of the woodworking department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and married Wisconsin artist Bird Ross.

As demonstrated by his folding chair design, Loeser’s most distinguishing characteristic as a furniture artist is his ability to create functional pieces that challenge the viewer or user’s expectations and causes them to interact with the object in new visual, intellectual, and physical ways. He has stated that while his pieces make the viewer’s interaction with an object less straightforward, the interactions are also therefore more rewarding. Loeser is also one of the leaders in in his field in the use of paint as a decorative and compositional element, which can be controversial among furniture artists.

Loeser has participated in over 200 exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally, and has won numerous awards. His work may be found in the following local public collections: the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, the Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, and the Reeve Union Art Gallery at the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh. Nationally, Loeser’s work may be found  at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, TX, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design , Charlotte, NC, and in New York City, the Museum of Art and Design, the Brooklyn Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

(Biography contributed by Jennifer Harenda.)

Wisconsin Affiliations

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Wisconsin Art Organizations

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