Tom Coffin was born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1955. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institue and in 1979 received his BFA. From 1974-1976 He studied at the Institue of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe New Mexico.
After several years of doing this he began making three dimensional scenses called dioramas. Made from plaster and lit like stage designs, Coffin's dioramas are whimsical miniature landscapes: Volcanoes erupting, a New Mexican landscape at sunset, atornado set in Kansas and named Don't Eat Chinese Food In Dodge. His first piece, Sunset at Cadillac Ranch, sold immediately. The inspiration to do these partly real partly imaginary scenes came to Coffin in 1983 when he began spending a lot of time delievering and installing large pieces of sculpture all over the country.
Coffin began drawing when he was five years old in Lawrence Kansas where he grew up. He Studied art at IAIA and the Kansas City Art Institute, planning to be a painter but decided to try sculpting when he worked at the foundry in Shindoni.
"I had no thoughts of being a sculptor," he explained, "but working at the foundry day after day became a kind of reverse inspiration. I saw what not to do while working on castings where the arms were longer than the legs... and it wasn't on purpose. It's difficult at times. Sometimes I get halfway into a piece and ask myself why did I start casting bronze? THe average piece takes months or even years to do and costs anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000, which you might not get back for a long time," he said. "But once it's in your blood that's it."
Coffin is Creek, Potowatomie, as well as English and French, but he has pointedly stayed away from Indian motifs in his work. His style is contemporary, with influences from the classical masters: Turner, Rembrandt, Whistler, and da Vinci, as well as from Egyptian, Assyrian and early Chinese sculptures.
"I like the way they're sophisticated and naive at the same time," he explained. "Today we can still barely touch the quality of work that was done 4,000 years ago." His sculpture belie this. Coffin's talent has been recognized recently by a commission from MacDonald's corporate headquarters in Chicago. He is currently sculpting a life-size family of four in bronze. To do this, he built a revolving platform and videotaped the models so that he can play the tape back on a TV monitor instead of having the models pose each time.
So much of what an artist is able to do in his work is detemined by money or the lack of it. If money were no object, what would change? "I'd just do more of what I'm doing already- but the pieces would probably be a little more elaborate," he answered. "I like exotic material, so I'd just use more of them - marbles, different metals. I'd use gold plate instead of just high polishing bronze. I'd probably use more stones.
1988-Second Annual Erotica Exhibition Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1987- First Erotica Invitational, Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1986- Contemporary Native American Artists, Governors Gallery, Santa Fe, NM & 12th Annual Outdoor Sculpture Show, Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1985-Shidoni Gallery, Plaza of the Americas, Dallas, TX
1984-Shidoni Gallery, Plaza of the Americas, Dallas, TX
1983-9th Annual Outdoor Sculpture Show, Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1982-8th Annual Outdoor Sculpture Show, Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1981- 7th Annual Outdoor Sculpture Show, Shidoni Gallery, Tesuque, NM
1980-Stables Gallery, Taos, NM
1979- College of Santa Fe Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
1978- Insitute of AMerican Indian Art, Santa Fe, NM
1976- Stables Gallery, Taos, NM
1975- The Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ