Thomas Ray Willis, M.F.A.

Thomas Ray Willis, M.F.A.

Assistant Professor of Studio Art
M.F.A. New York University
B.A. University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Thomas Ray Willis is a visual artist who works across media, with a particular interest in rituals of the experience economy. His hometown of Las Vegas—a dichotomy of community and spectacle, consumption and production, reenactment and reality—informs his outlook and work. His projects range from light installations in public spaces, to brand ideation and book design. Willis’ recent sign projects explore how the social function of light has stayed the same for centuries—from fire to electric—by providing a transcendent space for sharing and connecting.

Willis grew up in an at-risk household, with drawing as a source of refuge. He was the first in his family to attend college, receiving a BFA in painting from University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2009. From there he moved to Boston—as a commercial photographer and graphic designer for various businesses, as well an instructional technology support specialist at the Wellesley College Art Department—which led him to New York, receiving his MFA from New York University in 2019. He has 15 years of experience as an artist, with works in the Museum of Modern Art Archives, Whitney Museum Library, New York Public Library, Printed Matter, and with the Art Production Fund. Willis is a former visual art professor at Rhode Island School of Design, NYU Steinhardt, and Bentley University. He currently is a resident artist at Yonkers Artist Residency Project, just minutes away from the Mount.

Areas of Interest

  • Painting and drawing
  • 2D, 3D, and 4D design
  • Electronic art
  • Performance art
  • Installation art
  • Public art
  • Critical art practices
  • Graphic arts
  • Commercial photography


  • ART 115 Drawing I: Intro to Drawing
  • ART 115 Drawing II: Advanced Techniques
  • ART 117 Foundations of Design: Form & Abstraction
  • ART 118 Foundations of Design: Color & Composition
  • ART 222 Graphic Arts
  • ART 305 Painting I: Intro to Painting
  • ART 306 Painting II: Advanced Techniques
  • ART 312 3D Design
  • ART 317 Advertising Design
  • ART 322 Design Ideation
  • ART 327 Directed Open Studio
  • ART 345 Sculpture
  • ART 427 Topics in Studio Art
  • ART 430 Art as Social Intervention
  • ART 460 Independent Study
  • ART 485 Studio Art Capstone

Public Art and Collections

Whitney Museum Library | New York, NY | 2019

New York Public Library | New York, NY | 2019

Museum of Modern Art Archives | New York, NY | 2018

Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art | Las Vegas, NV | 2017

Wellesley College | Wellesley, MA | 2017

Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas | Las Vegas, NV | 2015

New Art Center | Newton, MA | 2014

Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health | Las Vegas, NV | 2012

Selected Exhibitions and Performances

East Village Zine Fair (curated by Acompi). Printed Matter. New York, NY | 2022

Beacon (group exhibition curated by the Honey Pump Art Agency). Satellite Art Club. Brooklyn, NY | 2021

NYU MFA Art Critique (solo performance). Montez Press Radio. New York, NY | 2020

NYU MFA Art Critique (solo performance). Printed Matter Inc. New York, NY | 2019

Pond (group exhibition curated by Constanza Valenzuela and Emilee Graverson). Barney Commons. New York, NY | 2019

Thoughts and Prayer Casino (solo exhibition). 80wse Gallery. New York, NY | 2018

Retrofit Painting: deCordova Store (solo installation). deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum. Lincoln, MA | 2018

Media Arts Festival Arad 4 (group exhibition curated by Ileana Selejan). Cinema ARTA. Arad, Romania | 2017

Everything Must Go (solo exhibition). Dorchester Art Project. Boston, MA | 2017

Works Well With Others (group exhibition curated by Ian Alden Russell). David Winton Bell Gallery. Providence, RI | 2016

Retrofit Painting Presents… (solo installation). Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College. Wellesley, MA | 2016

Adventure Department (solo performance for SkoheganPERFORMS). Socrates Sculpture Park. Queens, NY | 2016

Retrofit Painting of Las Vegas (solo installation). P3Studio @ Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Las Vegas, NV | 2015

Inaugural Exhibition (group exhibition curated by John Robert Roy). How’s Howard? Boston, MA | 2015

Between You and Me (resident group exhibition). Dorchester Art Project. Boston, MA | 2015

deCordova Biennial HDH (group exhibition and solo installation selected by John C Gonzalez). deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum. Lincoln, MA | 2014

Boston Contemporary Art Museum (group exhibition curated by Pat Falco). Boston Arts Festival/Mobius. Boston, MA | 2014

Perceptual Ballads (two-person exhibition curated by Marc Dombrosky). Southwestern Michigan College Gallery. Dowagiac, MI | 2014

Flash of an Instant (group exhibition curated by Sarah Pollman and Caitlin Moore). New Art Center. Newton, MI | 2014

Boston Does Boston Six (group exhibition curated by Kara Braciale). Proof Gallery. Boston, MA | 2013

Meta (group exhibition curated by Camilo Alvarez). Gallery 263. Cambridge, MA | 2012

A Few More Paintings (solo exhibition). McGladrey Art Gallery. Waltham, MA | 2012

Tomorrow People: Vegas’ top emerging artists (group exhibition). Contemporary Arts Center. Las Vegas, NV | 2010

Collected and Represented (solo exhibition). Trifecta Gallery. Las Vegas, NV | 2010


McVey, Kurt. “Thomas Ray Willis: Hierarchy of Tears.” Whitehot Magazine, 2019:3.

Selejan, Ileana. “Media Arts Festival Arad 4 Exhibition Catalogue.” Cinema ARTA 2017.

Aurise, Elana “DAP bids Willis farewell with ‘Everything Must Go’ exhibit.” Dorchester Reporter, July 1, 2017.

Selejan, Ileana. “Dance like you mean it. Conversation with Thomas Willis.” Big Red and Shiny, June 15, 2016.

Russ, Jo. “The End of the P3Studio Artist Residency Era.” Huffington Post, January 14, 2016.

Ramirez, Krystal. “Try On Thomas Willis’ Retrofit Paintings” Las Vegas Sun, August 6, 2015.

Peterson, Kristen. “Functional Paintings & the High-End Retail Boutique…” Las Vegas Weekly, August 5, 2015.

Whitmore, Mikayla. “Form Equals Function?” Las Vegas Sun. July 9, 2015.

Kelly, Danielle. “Interview: Thomas Willis.” Helen Magazine, April 30, 2010.

Kelly, Danielle. “Painting with fire at Trifecta Gallery.” Las Vegas Weekly, November 17, 2010.