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
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.