Thomas Barger

I Never Had a Closet — Closet, 2018. Paper pulp, wooden frame, cardboard, polyurethane, paint, thrift store fabric. Displayed with Nat Pyper’s zine, 19 in 2021, part of the Genderfail Archive Project collection.

Thomas Barger’s design practice is motivated by a sense of responsibility to reuse, readapt, or repurpose materials in an American convenience culture. His characteristic approach weaves personal narratives into a process of building dreamlike forms onto discarded furniture. Each object is like a journal entry, corresponding with a specific moment in the artist’s life. 

Charmed, 2019. Paper pulp, plywood, polyurethane, paint, and miscellaneous objects. Courtesy of Salon 94. 

TITLE TBD features works made in 2017-2018, a snapshot of a period where Barger was resolving experiences of growing up, coming out, and coming of age. Barger grew up in Mattoon, Illinois where “faith, family, and farming” was a motto. At 22, he moved to New York City to work in a small architecture firm, but burned out quickly, as the only assignments he enjoyed were those where he was able to use his hands. When the artist began supporting himself as a dog-walker, he began to collect discarded documents from the New York City Police Department, taking them home and running them through a Cuisinart. He learned how to make paper pulp, moulding it over found furniture and styrofoam waste; and finishing the objects with details that recall his Midwestern roots.*

Heaven Bound, 2020. Paper pulp, plywood, polyurethane, and paint. Courtesy of Salon 94.

†Briget Moriarty. “At a New Show, Thomas Barger Upcycles Your IKEA Discards Into Collectible Design.Sight Unseen (March 20, 2018). 


Thomas Barger is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY.  His current work commentates on relationships with functional objects. Often modernism, queerness, city life versus a farming childhood inform his artistic decisions. Besides making work he enjoys to bike, swim, and spend time with loved ones.