Le suicide selon Bill Thomas


Fish and Gun, 1994.

89fe901692c2f99841f970db4938a2aeTub and Toaster, 1991.

7a972ae2ca9bb4b8e6437e1ce12df971Tractor and Plow Disc, 1993.

7187802571771420a5a0af11375d197cSwimming Pool and Concrete Blocks, 1992.

3ad9c2ad4b9ce30026fb4c242be4a484Sleeping Pills and Tanning Bed, 1993.

c5508cf641f3dfa577355232c9de4488Seesaw and Ice Cube, 1991.

da09f638dd6da8fc79bc60aad9fa3a32Ratts and Syringes, 1992.

a1935be6992cfbdf154682fa2d8203bfKnife and Iron, 1992.

8d76131af6fddb18c355f6adfe823d5aGasoline and Candles, 1991.

f563d4f2ef0ee32815ae4c27d4023ab7Dog and Shotgun, 1991.

01b366faf03e637d821edff6f940b82dChain and Train, 1992.

d609db3f0256ef23d507da116f42b4e3Baseballs and Pitching Machines, 1992.

“A man’s work is nothing but the long journey to recover, through the detours of art, the two or three simple and great images which first gained access to his heart.”

Albert Camus

“Nothing but” statements like Camus’ are always attractive to me because they
offer answers, and, although I have mellowed over the years and learned to be
satisfied with mostly questions, I am still easily seduced by the fantasy of a
painless and easy, not to mention romantic, explanation of the journey through
life. Painless, that is, unless the “simple and great images” Camus alludes to are
themselves pain-full, and the access they gained to my heart was like that of a

On September 15, 1959, I witnessed the bloody aftermath of a bombing at my
elementary school, where a madman killed himself and five others by
detonating a powerful bomb on the school grounds. This was an extremely
upsetting event for me and my fellow six-grade students, but no consideration
was ever given to the treatment of our trauma. In fact, nothing much was even
said about it when we returned to school the next day. Those of us who
survived the blast and saw the bodies became part of a conspiracy of denial and
were condemned to having to recover (from) this “great image.”

Recovering this image from my memory has necessarily brought me “closer” to
death, and has led me to examine our cultural attitude which denies death.
Historian Philippe Ariés describes this attitude as the “forbidden death.”
Perhaps nowhere is this denial stronger than with regard to the social taboo of

My current project, the SUICIDE series, attempts to deal with this taboo
social-psychological content in an ironic way, looking at suicide from both
serious and humorous perspectives. The photographs consist of self-constructed
and directed tableaux in which I am seen committing suicide by a variety of
outrageous means. I attempt to further the believability of the scenarios
through use of the hyper-real information available from the 8″ x 10″ format,
together with their presentation as large, 32″ x 42″ black and white prints.

René Magritte said that we must not fear daylight just because it almost always
illuminates a miserable world, and so it is my intention to present the viewer
with several death and misery related issues — the acknowledgment and denial
of death, the cohesion of the self, self-destructive behaviors and alienation
–against the backdrop of humor.

In this context, humor is more than a clever device to gain access to the darker
sides of ourselves. Humor contains a life-affirming, restorative power which
can also sustain us during our long journey through the detours of art and life,
regardless of what images we might unwittingly recover — and then have to
recover from.

Bill Thomas

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