Protean and versatile, Maria Tome’s work is hard to fit into the boxes of usual parameters of contemporary art: parameters that exist either to flatter collectors and reassure their own egos or to encourage investors that they are about to make profit.
This self-taught artist followed an unusual path from the beginning: She first formed herself in photography and then became James Lignier’s assistant. He was the one who offered her her first film camera. With this Nikon F3, she set off on her photographic trip, travelling the world to take pictures.
In 1991 she landed at the Hôpital Ephèmère, an exceptional place for that time, and a true nursery for non-academic artists such as: Jean Luc Blanc, Lean Luc Verna, Aurèle, the FFF …) artists who,
like her, disregarded boundaries between different
artistic disciplines. Far from not understanding where these
boundaries were supposed to be, during the second part of the 80s these artists consciously decided not to take them into account any more, in order to enjoy an acceleration of communication-exchanges, as well as an improved access to information and knowledge that
allowed them to bypass academic heaviness.
The Hôpital Ephemere was a real school for Maria Tome, well as for many others; but a rebellious school that forged artists within a form of flexibility that is today shared by many young creators.
From this point of view, Maria Tomé is very innovative: Artists such as Keith Haring (between Graffiti and painting) or,
before him, the Diego and Alberto Giacometti brothers (between sculpture and design), Oskar Schlemmer (between architecture and theater) or Sonia Delaunay (whose works, considered at the time as simple decorative fabric pieces, came before Mondrian’s paintings) could be seen as her true predecessors. As a truly transversal artist, Maria Tomé is at the service of humanity. Clothing her friends and the people she loves is central to her work (she has created stage-costumes for the great George Clinton for more than two decades, and he systematically wears everything that she proposes. If that says a lot about the relationship of trust that has developed between the worldwide star and Maria Tomé, it also makes us understand that Maria Tomés benevolence is contagious.) Enrobing people with good will and sublimating them, is a vital mission for her, as well as offering the progress of her thought and intuition. Both these hemicycles of her work are inseparable and she grants them the same importance.
Her series of collages and cut-outs, amongst which the astonishing series « Nothing is lost « , in which she carries details from a selected page to the other within a same book or catalogue (often creating
amazing and sometimes abstract meetings on the reverse page) or another series called « Switch Houses », in which she intermingles two different illustrated books (as a musician would make a « mash-up » between two songs) producing the collision of two often disparate themes whose juxtaposition becomes, to paraphrase Breton, as beautiful as « the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissection table.” These collage and cutout works pose Maria Tomé as worthy descendant of artists such as Jacques Villeglé (his « street archaeology » is a game which creates short palimpsests, small semantic deconstructions that float in public spaces). Maria Tome’s cutting games are, on the other hand, indoor games, comparable to chain rhymes, or to an endless litany that has taken her years of considerable concentration and discipline.
This artist does turn to the public space by dressing her friends up with T-shirts printed with pictures of themselves as children (series: « My Friends When They Were Children « ) and sending them off with her blessings to tend to their everyday business while at the same time displaying both their present body and past pictures of themselves (pictures always chosen by Maria and them with tenderness and attention). However, Maria Tome can also be demanding with her subjects: asking them to step naked on ancient steles, perched in the raw dimness of the early morning light of sublime public spaces (the « Stella » series).
If Maria Tome can not be defined as a « performance artist » it is because for her performance is so pervasive, that even the act of breathing can be included. Master of oriental disciplines such as Macrobiotics and the study of Yin and Yang (she organizes conferences about this subject), her work amazes us with features that have become rare traits of subtlety in the West, but which are standard among the most educated people of the East. An artist like her can stop her step in mid air to avoid trampling something small and apparently insignificant; she is the one who can show us some precious little detail that others had not see, see the stroke of genius in an apparently unbearable child, or brush the outlines of a relevant sociological study beneath the apparent triviality of a reality-show… show us things hidden behind the page, if we can turn that page carefully, with grace and levity.