Urban Minimalism Comes in Many Colors

Mondrian,  poolside


Thomas Michael Gillaspy, a state legal affairs analyst and photographer based in Sacramento California, focuses on color in urban minimalism.

“Architecture interests me because of its relationship to the urban environment. I think it is our attempt to bring order to the natural world,” says Gillaspy. “Color evokes emotion for me. And in architecture, I like to find patterns, the repetition of geometries, the way we attempt to make order in the urban environment. It is exhilarating to find form and pattern in unexpected places.”


Confident jpeg
Open Window
Seattle green


Gillaspy creates order from urban overload photographing surprising subjects up close, in bits and pieces, and in rich, elegant hues.

Initially, he studied Modernist painting at California State University, Chico. “I was drawn to the European modernist movement’s willingness to break from the past and create what I consider radical new ways of seeing and thinking about the world,” he says. Among Gillaspy’s favorite Modernists are Matisse and Picasso as well as Frantisek Kupka, Felice Casorati, Georgio De Chirico, Modigliani, Moise Kisling and Franz Marc.

“I was particularly drawn to the use of color in Fauvism, and the lines, symmetry and movement   of the Cubist and Futurist movements and the mystery of the metaphysical painters. These influences undoubtedly find their way into my photography in subtle ways.

“I can’t really say why my interest in Modernist painting led to contemporary photography.    Perhaps it was a gradual historical procession. People often identify my work as minimalistic,   and Minimalism took hold shortly after the Modernist movement in the 60s.”





Gillaspy particularly admires the work of photographers Josef Sudek, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Hoyningen-Huene, Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman and Gregory Crewdson. “I recently became interested in the overlooked early pictorial movement in photography — i.e. Annie Brigman,” he adds.






“Also, my wife, Marcene Gandolfo, is a poet and from her I’ve learned more about poetic forms.     I like the Asian forms; in particular, I’m drawn to Haiku. I love its simplicity, the way it captures a moment in time and season. I think some tenants of Haiku resonate in my photography. I love this quote from the Tao Te Ching: Recognize what is simple. Keep what is essential.”




Keeping what’s essential, Gillaspy zeros in on zones of color and design. He shoots high and low isolating patterns at fresh and surprising angles. His tightly cropped images elevate bold colors and otherwise missed dramatic juxtapositions.


The effect of Gillaspy’s reductive and vigilant vision can be calm, highly energetic, or even dizzying.

Paint poles

“Certain colors work in concert with others better,” he says. “Take the image in Escape. This is a photograph about balance. The warm stimulating yellow contrasts with the cool, calm blue. The eye must locate a sense of balance between the colors. The ladder also calls the body to balance. One must maintain stability in order to successfully escape. The two states of mind must be tethered.



“I feel that art is everything to which you give your full attention,” says Gillaspy.

His arresting photographs have appeared in the DMQ Review, Stark Magazine, Turk’s Head Review, Aperion Review and Sulsun Valley Review. Click here to see more of Gillaspy’s work.





Photography lovers plan to attend Look3 Photo Festival, June 10-13 in Charlottesville, VA

Among Festival’s famed photographers are Larry Fink, Zanele Muholi, Walter Iooss, Alec Soth, David Alan Harvey, Vincent J. Musi, Piotr Naskrecki, Monica Haller and the Veterans Book Project.

Look3 2015 will be curated by Kathy Ryan, Director of Photography at The New York Times Magazine and by independent curator Scott Thode.

The wide variety of photographic work will be shown at local exhibitions and discussed in on-    stage conversations at the Paramount Theater. Book signings will follow each talk. All exhibitions will open on Friday, June 5, 2015, and are free to the public.

WORKS — a showcase of visual essays from journalism to fine art by new and established photographers — will be projected June 12 and 13  at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.

Find further information at www.look3.org.


Elizabeth Meade Howard, Art Editor



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