Argus Leader: 'TheTom and Gerry Show' Reveals New Side of Artists

A kinder, gentler Tom Shields emerges through his current abstract oil paintings.

And a more daring ceramic artist Gerry Punt is revealed, his formerly symmetrical wheel-thrown works now pushed, pulled and distorted.

The two Augustana College art professors team up for an exhibit showing now through Jan. 18 at the college gallery. There are new works by Punt, and a retrospective plus new works by Shields. The show name plays on the classic cartoon title: "The Tom & Gerry Show."

Shields' oil paintings from the '80s resemble his work today, but the old works have sharp angles and more dramatic shapes and textures. Overall, the collection is a vibrant showing of of rich colors and energy.

"I really did work in a reactionary way in earlier works, and didn't want to reflect too much on what I was doing," Shields says. "I didn't want to over-rationalize my work. But then about 10 to 15 years ago I started reflecting more."

It shows in his recent work, which has a more mature look. There are softer shapes, rounder corners and gentler colors. In a break from the abstract, the exhibit shows off his skill at realism with a few examples of classic-style figure drawing.

During the recent exhibit reception, some guests said they like the earlier works more than the current works, while others say they favor the softer edge of current paintings by the 58-year-old artist. Shields has taught at Augie for 16 years.

Animated vessels
Punt's latest work has changed a lot from his perfectly round and cylindrical works of the past.

He still throws on the potter's wheel, but now he breaks the symmetry, altering the forms by pushing, pulling and twisting the clay. He adds small handles on most pieces, with suggestions of rivets holding them on, and applies ornate coin-like decorative touches.

"It's a series of work that really, in my mind, are animated cylinders," says the Augie artist-in-residence and teacher. "I was able to break away from the need for symmetry."

Some fans resist change: At the reception, many patrons were excited about the new shapes, while others missed the old work. Punt says he listens to comments, but is careful about letting it influence the evolution of his style.

"Listening to other people's perspectives can give you a level of objectivity, but at the same time you still have to follow your own direction," says Punt, 52, an Augie art teacher since 1983.

"I'm not sure if you can control your influences, but at some point you make choices relating in part to those things, too," he says. "You can't listen to everyone. No matter what you're doing, you're not going to please everyone."



For more about the artists' work, visit


Jay Kirschenmann
The Argus Leader
Phone: 605.331.2312