Tom McPherson is a rock star when it comes to showing his unique form of steam punk wood carvings at Changing Seasons in the Englewood art district.
When patrons come to Russ Lawrence’s eclectic shop, they might find a unique original by McPherson that combines distressed barn wood, a rusted bicycle frame, the inner workings of a clock, elegant hand-carved birds and a zombie fish.
That’s right, a zombie fish.
But Changing Seasons has been closed for remodeling, and McPherson was hoping for a new venue to show his award-winning designs, as he was recently honored by the Kansas City Woodcarvers Club with an award in its Stylized Impression category.
“I’d never seen anything like Tom’s work,” said judge Buck Arnhold. “There are a lot of wood carvers in the Kansas City area, but no one does what Tom does and it’s fun to look at.”
McPherson was an artist without a home, until a chance meeting with an art visionary in the Kansas City Crossroads District.
“Everything in life is who you know,” said McPherson, who grew up in Grain Valley and is a longtime resident of Independence. “A friend of mine saw some art displayed in a salon/studio in the art district in downtown Kansas City and told me about it. I talked with the owner and all of sudden, 23 of my best pieces are on display for June’s First Fridays in the Crossroads District.
Which begins tonight at 6 p.m.
“Since I started carving, that has been a goal of mine, to be in First Fridays,” McPherson said, with the enthusiasm of a child who had just opened his favorite Christmas gift, “and now it’s happening. I can’t wait for Friday to see what people who have never seen my art think of it.”
The initial feedback has been so positive that Silver Screen Salon owner Travis Crall said a customer has already offered to purchase three of McPherson’s pieces – they feature assemblage art with hand-carved birds, keys, antique boxes and a rusted bicycle seat.
“I feel so honored to have Tom’s art in my salon,” said Crall, an award-winning stylist who represents L’Oreal around the United States. “Tom came in and hung his art and the next day a customer asked for the prices.
“I get to look at his art 50 hours this week – man, I feel like the luckiest guy in the Crossroads District because I’ve never seen anything like the work Tom does, and neither have my clients. I know this place is going to be packed Friday.”
Crall calls his place of business, located at 1718 Wyandotte in the Crossroads District, Silver Screen Salon because it is the former 20th Century Fox building.
He has portraits of movie legends hanging on the wall next to McPherson’s art work and around the corner are Hollywood stars in the sidewalk representing Walt Disney, Ginger Rogers and other Hollywood legends with a Kansas City tie.
“I think it’s important to highlight and showcase the local artists, and we’ve had a lot of them, but none of them have created a buzz like this art from Tom,” said Crall, as he sat in the one of the theater seats from the former “Tonight Show” set when Conan O’Brien was the short-lived host.
“We’re going to make this an event. We’re setting up chairs outside, putting up some signage in the area to let people know that we have Tom’s work on display and we’re even going to have a DJ. We’re making this a party – and everyone is invited.”
McPherson was featured in The Examiner last summer, and the response to the story was overwhelming.
“I’d been in Changing Seasons for about a year, and a few people came in and looked around,” said McPherson, a member of the professional staff and business development department at BRR Architecture in Merriam, Kan., “but when the story came out, people came into Russ’s shop and asked for me! It kind of caught me off guard, but it was just so cool.
“Now, I get to go to a totally new gallery with an owner who is one of the neatest guys I’ve ever met. He’s as enthusiastic about my art as I am. And people who have never had the chance to see my art will get to see it. I’m really anxious to see what they have to say.”
While his signature pieces of art feature hand-carved birds that are so real you expect them to fly off the rusted bicycle they call home, his latest creation is a Terminator fish that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger proud.
It even features a menacing red eye that lights up and gun-toting fins that signal danger.
“I had someone come in and they couldn’t believe it was carved out of wood,” Crall said, smiling, “and when you look at it, you can kind of see why they thought that. This is the kind of stuff you have to see to believe.”
And Eastern Jackson County residents will be able to check out McPherson’s artwork once the remodeling is done at Changing Seasons later this summer.
“I’ll be back in Englewood and it will be fun to see if anyone comes to Independence who saw my art at First Fridays,” McPherson said.