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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. A permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works of art on a riverfront campus offers more than 95,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities.

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Artist in the Store: Tom Grzybala




My formal training is in science, chemistry, and chemical engineering, and I spent almost 34 years in the industrial chemical industry before retiring.  Although my working life has always been is some type of technical function, I have also always been interested in being creative, in being artistic, in making things.   For someone who was required to be very left brained in his professional career, I feel fortunate to also have some right brain talent wanting to get out.

Over the years I have delved deeply into photography (the film and darkroom kind), stained glass crafting with a specialization in Tiffany style lamps, custom knife making, woodturning and wood art, photography (this time the digital kind), and most recently, computer generated imaging.

Early on, these activities were more for myself, a way to release some creativity.  Yes, I won some ribbons and sold some pieces but mostly the things I made went to decorate the house or were given as gifts.  It was not until I retired that I really got a chance to get serious with my art.  Since then I have had a number of my pieces in the galleries at Avondale and have had pieces on display and critiqued at several Florida Woodturners’ and American Association of Woodturners’ Symposiums.  I am a Hanging Member of the Art Center of Jacksonville and have pieces in the galleries at Adams Street and the Bank of America.  I am also a member of the Turning Arts Group, a group of four like-minded woodturners, who use wood as their media.

I also have a print in the La Florida exhibit, which is currently on display at the Cummer Museum & Garden; this is an accomplishment for which I am most proud.  My most recent work, all computer-generated images, centers around the idea that a biological survey has been conducted on an alien planet and that the leader of the survey team has documented his discoveries.  It is one of the prints from this series that is in the La Florida exhibit.

Having always been interested in science and coming from a formal chemistry and chemical engineering background, I have constantly tried to find the hidden or deeper understanding of how the things around me work – why does the world look and behave the way it does?  Answering these questions from a purely scientific perspective was certainly gratifying but perhaps a little emotionless.  But I am fortune, I have also been blessed with a creative or artistic bent and I am able to add more than just facts to my view of the word.

When I worked with stained glass for example, I understood the laws of refraction and transmission but I also was able to feel the warmth of the light and to see it through its individual components.  When I worked with wood, I understood the biology of the tree and the structure of the grain but I was also able to feel the life in the wood and, hopefully through my craft, present that life for others to see and feel.

Now that I have been working with digital imaging for a while, I have begun to realize that you do not necessarily need a physical medium to express your view and understanding of the world around you.  Writers do this all the time; yes there is ink and paper but the real meat of their expression is in the interpretation of their words.  For me, creating these digital images is a way to continue to express my view of the world.  Hopefully, my images will help you to see that world as I see it.

Another thing I thoroughly enjoy is the technical aspect of the software needed to create these images (the math behind the algorithms).  So, in a way I have come full circle back to science.

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