With an April deadline approaching Thomas Lancaster works in his studio with his assistant for a juried art show he was accepted to in Ft. Worth. Concrete sculptures are taking form while 80’s music plays in the background. The studio is immaculate and work tables fill the space like Tetris pieces. Next to the doorway hangs a picture of his father bareback bronc riding, and below it a picture of himself bull riding. His concrete sculptures are as uncommon as his past, resembling objects you would see in a Sci-fi movie.
Recently I talked with Thomas about both his bull riding career and his art.
I began by asking him how he got started riding bulls.
Thomas started riding bulls when he was 16 years old. He was introduced by another high school student who turned out to be a bull riding poseur. Thomas recalls, “I sat next to a guy that would come to class with his rigging bag telling stories about riding. When I got out to the rodeo arena for the first time I found out he had never been on a bull. That night I got on my first bull, afterward I was hooked to the adrenaline rush, and liked the overall feel of the bull riding scene”
Thomas Lancaster rode over one hundred bulls during a four year period. He rode before helmets were used, and remembers once lending his new vest to a fellow rider who rode before him. His colleague fell off the bull, got stomped, and was paralyzed from then on.
When asked about his most memorable rides, he tells of a tiger striped bull that was the rankest in the whole herd. “When the chute opened the bull started spinning then bucked so hard it threw me into the air and when I landed it completely knocked the breath out of me. I also remember a Watusi that wasn’t too big of a bucker, so I rode him the full 8 seconds, but when I got off, he jumped the fence, and was running wild in the crowd! Then, at a Texas Tech rodeo in Lubbock, I rode a bull then fell off, but had my hand hung up and the clown trying to save me, I think his name was Jerry, got knocked out. Jerry got me off a lot of bulls.”
Many people might find it unusual that an ex-bull rider turned into a concrete sculptor. Thomas responds, “I was a different person back then, I’ve just gone through a lot of transformations, and don’t think much about the past. I’m more into off road motorcycle riding now. As for my art, I realized once I worked with concrete that I found a medium I wanted to work with, so I got some training and began by learning how to make counter-tops.”
I asked him if his bull riding past influences his artwork?
“In some ways, because bull riding is a very risky and challenging sport, and with my art I push the limits and take some challenges I might not have if I hadn’t been a bull rider.”
I also asked Thomas where he finds the inspiration for his work?
“I’m not real sure, I basically get into a creative trance through running and meditating, then begin to focus on a general idea of what I want to do. I’m able to get a creative flow to build that idea up, so that I can begin to create the piece. That first spark is channeled from outside me, it’s like someone or something placed an idea in my head and I have to figure out the logistics of bringing it to life.”