Thomas Sheehan’s Oil Portrait: Messenger

Thomas Sheehan’s oil portrait Messenger makes a statement about communication in our digital environment. In downtown Chicago, Sheehan spotted a bike messenger wearing a streamlined helmet, pausing in front of a bulletin board plastered with notices for clubs and bands. Within his minutia-filled composition, created from a composte of hundreds of photographs shot on the street, Sheehan captured all the detail of the young man with tattooed arms who was intently reading the flyers while consulting his cell phone.

"Messenger" - oil portrait by Thomas Sheehan

“The detail throughout Messenger (oil portrait, 26×32), presents an incessant visual droning, like a constant buzzing in one’s head,” says the painting’s artist, Thomas Sheehan, “There’s a sense of being overwhelmed by information.”

Identifying the subject of Messenger as the Greek god Hermes is tempting, and although the figure in Sheehan’s painting doesn’t carry the caduceus, he does wear a helmet into which nascent wings appear to have been molded, and he’s in the act of interpreting information that he’ll doubtlessly spread to others. Sheehan describes Messenger as the first in a series about communication—how enveloping, how overwhelming, how engulfing it’s become, preoccupying us and also isolating us in the new digital world. —by Ruth K. Meyer

Thomas Sheehan, a self-taught artist residing in Oak Park, Illinois, has been working in oil and pastel for most of his career. Abandoning advertising in 2003 to work full time in fine art, he spent two years painting in France before returning to the United States. To see more of his work, visit See also a feature article on his work in the March 2013 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, the premier art magazine for both professional and recreational artists.

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