Artist Tom Christopher’s Energized Paintings Remind Us Of A Busy Pre-COVID-19 New York City

Patrick Hanlon
6 min readMay 4, 2020
No one has painted the soul, aspiration and determination of New Yorkers so convincingly as Tom Christopher

The streets of New York City’s Times Square area are hollow now. At any other time, the trench that runs between Seventh Avenue and Broadway would be stomped over by fifty thousand people day and night. But because of coronavirus and quarantine, as we all know, everyone is missing.

No tourists. No Broadway stars. No media millionaires, UPS delivery persons. No naked cowboy, Disney-inspired costumes or other goblins.

The busy city of New York has been the subject of Tom Christopher (who is not even from New York, which makes the best kind of New Yorker) for over a decade. Christopher’s paintings hang in the New York City Historical Society, The Museum of The City of New York, New York’s City Hall and, for a time, his thirty-foot by 230-foot mural of Times Square was in Times Square itself, a mirror for passers-by. Christopher even had a pop-up installation with fellow artist Andy Hammerstein, grandson of Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. A bucket list project if there ever was one.

The thickest body of Christopher’s work is New York City’s street life — mainly the clogged aorta of Times Square. His images are best when the streets are gridlocked and people struggle across spongy asphalt. Christopher’s brush turns the sun-glare off the street hot white and people are frozen in the moment.

“What Do You Mean, ‘Go To My Happy Place’? It’s Here”

Christopher titles his paintings with snatched sidewalk conversation. Like, “I knew it was Camille. She used to be the hat check girl” or, “Seriously, tell me you did not rent ‘Olga’s House of Shame’ OK?”, and “Let me put it to you this way: I had a fight with a meat grinder and the meat grinder won.”

It is painterly detective work. What Christopher seems to be after is the motive, Who are we? WTF are we all doing here?

His paintings offer clues. Times Square is a clue all by itself. The stooped woman schlepping her bag in…

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Patrick Hanlon

Author of “Primal Branding,” “The Social Code,” writer on Forbes, Medium, Inc., East Hampton Star. Founder primalbranding.co