Tom Duncan was born in Shotts, Scotland in 1939. His youth was shaped by the screams of sirens, emergency trips to bomb shelters, and the experience of nearly being killed—strafed alongside his mother by Nazi pilots. As refuge, Duncan began making art when he was 4 years old. In 1947, his family moved to America. At the age of 20, he attended art school, but was discouraged by fellow art students who thought abstract impressionism was "the only true art form." Tom supported himself as a model builder for the NYC Port Authority, including making the architectural models for the planned World Trade Center Towers. A long–term resident of New York City's Greenwich Village, on September 11, 2001, Tom witnessed the collapse of Tower One, from the roof of his home/studio. This deeply emotional event served to reinforce the unpredictability of his life.
Duncan first began incorporating his memories of WWII in his art in the early 1980s. His work has also given a powerful voice to his horror at the historical accounts of what African Slaves endured. Tom Duncan's art is characterized by a childlike–lens on both trauma and fun in it's many forms. His artwork is also full of tributes to the many fascinating and powerful women he has known throughout his life. Duncan created a work in tribute to his Aunt Meg who first gave Tom modeling clay. Dressed in her Woman's Air Corps uniform, Tom remembers how Aunt Meg snuck him black market chocolates and taught him to make miniature chalices from the wrappers. Nuns were another fixture from Duncan's youth and his adolescence. Tom Duncan's 500 Nuns Donate Their Brains to Science celebrates, in iconic Duncan–style, the true story of the Sisters of Notre Dame, ages 75–106, who courageously chose to participate in a multi–decade, landmark study. The study led by Dr. David Snowden from the University of Kentucky at Lexington, on aging, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. "I consider myself an ex–Catholic after Vatican II didn't go far enough in making reform, but I have held on to a love of the Old and New Testament stories and all my spirituality."
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