Known for his luminescent colors in authentic portrayals of Native Americans and the American West’s iconic landscapes and structures, Tom Gilleon is one of the most revered masters in the Contemporary Western art movement. His sophisticated approach has been described as “magical elegance” by noted writer Patrick Hemingway and compared to the work of Modernist pioneers including the minimalist Narrative Realism of Edward Hopper and the vibrantly colorful Abstract Expressionism of Mark Rothko. In recent years, through his innovative collaboration with creative tech pioneer Marshall Monroe, Gilleon has forged new directions with his rhapsodic “digital paintings” that look like oils but magically morph before viewers’ eyes.
As a Walt Disney Imagineer for 25 years, Gilleon worked alongside Disney art legend Herb Ryman and dozens of other world-class artists, architects, and set designers to invent the concepts that became EPCOT Center and Disneyland Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai theme parks. In the early 1980s, Gilleon moved to Montana and began his transition into a career as a fine artist.
On January 16, 2024, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West debuted Tom Gilleon’s triumphant 90-painting career retrospective, Inner Light: The Art of Tom Gilleon. Raised by a Scottish-immigrant grandfather and Cherokee grandmother in a Florida home with no electricity, the exhibition begins in the 1940s with 5-year-old Tom drawing with a stick in the sand, then follows his development through art studies to illustrating for NASA’s Apollo moon missions, from painting theme park concepts for Walt Disney Imagineering — which has loaned 12 original oil paintings for the show — to creating fine art on his Montana ranch today.
Featuring 90-original works in all, the exhibition also include works on loan from 26-private collectors in 12-states, along with Gilleon’s revolutionary new digital paintings. Created in collaboration with former Walt Disney Imagineer and longtime friend Marshall Monroe of Marshall Monroe Magic, the exhibit debuts Spirit Catcher, Gilleon’s stunning 22-minute triptych digital painting inspired in part by the ethnographic photographs of Native Americans taken a century ago by Edward S. Curtis.
Gilleon’s works are held in the permanent collections of the Whitney Western Art Museum in Cody, Wyoming; the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana; the Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville, Georgia; the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry; NASA; the United States Air Force; The Walt Disney Company; Universal Studios; and Warner Bros. Studios.
The retrospective’s 80-page brochure and a forthcoming comprehensive and fully illustrated hardcover book are being designed by award-winning graphic artist Derrit DeRouen, the former Creative Director of Twitter’s Global Brand, and edited by Norman Kolpas, a veteran writer on American realist and Western art and the author of more than forty books.
Inner Light: The Art of Tom Gilleon will exhibit at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona, from January 16 through August 2024; and then travel to the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana, where it will be on view from November 15, 2024, to March 31, 2025.
“The Tom Gilleon Retrospective will be a major exhibit by one of the greatest living American artists today.”
- Tim Peterson, co-curator of Inner Light | Scottsdale Museum of The West Trustee