Discover Local Artists: Tom Whitton

Most of us have put that cute one-piece “suit,” a “Onesie,” on our kids. It’s not fun though. First, you have to pull it over the child’s head, squish the arms through the sleeves, pull it down over the body by tipping, flopping and lifting, and, once you have it in place, you go through the process of snapping the garment up, while the child impatiently protests, flailing arms and legs.

Now, take it a step further. Think about putting a Onesie on yourself. Ponder squeezing into it, snapping up all those impossible snaps, buttons, etc., at the shoulders, in the back, down the side of the leg…

Onesie - Pink (?)
Onesie – Pink (?)
Quilted onesie by artist Tom Whitton
Quilted onesie by artist Tom Whitton
Tom
Tom Whitton

Artist Tom Whitton of West Palm Beach creates adult-size Onesies. They are about expectations, he explains, using family life — and this garment — as a kind of metaphor.

The material he uses for them is from old mattresses he’s found lying about. The quilted fabric is familiar, he notes, and also has some beauty to it — a nice texture and feeling — but it’s also stained and it smells. That’s his way of tying public and private concepts together, he explains.

Now through Friday, Aug. 14, Florida Atlantic University’s Jupiter campus library gallery features his “I’m Hungry.” Accompanying his 23 Onesies is a two-minute video that follows him at home wearing a Onesie.

“I wake up, put the Onesie on and go to the living room. Getting it on, by the way, is difficult. I want something to eat, but nobody is home to feed me. My statements are not being reacted to.

“You go through all the angst and your needs are not met.”

But there’s always the hope that someday you will hit the jackpot, win the lottery, find that pot at the end of the rainbow, he said. “One day. One day. But it never happens.

“There are numbers on my Onesies. “If Number One doesn’t work, I’ll make another and keep on making them, hoping eventually for ‘the one.’”

Whitton, who has an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, creates other garments. “I’ve done a series on anonymity, “Collective Threads” at University of Central Missouri, with a Power Suit that’s kind of like a straightjacket – you get into one of these suits and you can’t get out. It becomes useless.” He’s also created Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy suits as well as an enormous, 50-by-70-foot apron.

His Onesies are for sale for $25 to $200, as well as copies of his video.

FAU’s John D. MacArthur Campus Library Gallery is at 5353 Parkside Drive, Jupiter. Hours are Sundays from 1:30 to 10 p.m.; Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, contact Diane Arrieta at 561-799-8530 or  darrieta@fau.edu, or visit the gallery’s site.