Thomas Martinez Pilnik

Artist Profile

Thomas Martinez Pilnik

Raised by Brazilian parents in London, Thomas Martinez Pilnik works primarily in ceramics and textiles to explore the complexities of familial ties and personal history.

Navigating the delicate boundary between reality and memory, Pilnik draws inspiration from childhood recollections of grandparents, experiences of post-divorce custody arrangements, and the intimate atmosphere of family members gathered around the kitchen table enveloped in cigarette smoke.

Through textured glazed terracotta sculptures, Pilnik captures the raw essence of physicality and touch-memory. Each piece bears the imprint of the artist’s own hands–molded, pinched, and pulled in an attempt to immortalize the process of creation itself. By infusing his works with autobiographical elements and private moments of love and trauma, Pilnik crafts tangible records of his emotional journey. Ultimately he invites the viewer to consider the nuances of their own past and contemplate the universal themes of human experience embedded within each piece.


Pilnik obtained his BA in Studio Art and Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia, M.Ed in Postsecondary Education from the University of Southern California, and MFA from the University of Connecticut. Pilnik has exhibited internationally in spaces including Zaratan Arte Contemporânea (Lisbon), Shelter in Place Gallery (Boston), Arusha Gallery (London), and Hashimoto Contemporary (Los Angeles). 

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Artist Statement

My hands are beginning to reveal a universal and existential absolute. They are often dry, calloused, splintered, chewed, and tender. They belie my anxiety, my distrust, and my misuse of materials. They tell the story of my skin, my body; scarred, on alert, under the microscope at any given time. They also feed me, fuel me, and allow me to banish the fear through creating, caressing, and consuming.

I was always scared of my Grandma Deirdre’s hands. The ones that so tenderly embraced me, the five elegant fingers on each that lovingly pinched my cheeks and slyly masked the truth. But they could never truly lie, they revealed the same universal absolute that mine are starting to show.

My work discloses this too. It is often cracked, imperfect, and sometimes impermanent – occupying an uncanny position between this reality and the one that follows once memories have replaced my physical presence. I remember when this happened to my grandmother. We knew it was coming because of her hands.