On a cold and windy night in 1963, Thomas Woodruff, a peculiar cub scout, carried a large American flag for his troop in the New Rochelle, NY Thanksgiving Day Parade. The event left lingering scars. He was known in the neighborhood as the boy who staged elaborate puppet shows in his darkened suburban basement. While still in his twenties, Woodruff collaborated with the avant garde theatre director Robert Wilson on the decor for his opera Edison, and adapted and storyboarded his stage spectacles for television. He has contributed award-winning illustrations to every major periodical in America, including the memorable backpage series “Rock and Roll Still-Life” for Rolling Stone in the early 1990’s. He has created the book covers for novels by Ann Tyler, Robertson Davies, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and many others.
Woodruff has had over 20 one person exhibitions, and his paintings have been included in museum shows internationally. His major gallery works are created in series. In the past these works have often been elegaic in nature and have dealt with the AIDS epidemic. Some of his major projects are The Secret Charts (1994), a series of tromp l’oeil scrolls depicting an alphabet of loss; Apple Canon (1996), his collection of 365 individual apple “portraits” to “keep the doctor away”; and All Systems Go (1999), images organized as “missions” incorporating rocketships, Woodruff’s meditation on the end of the millenium.
Freak Parade has been his most ambitious project, five years in the making. He has recently finished Solar System (The Turning Heads), which showed at PPOW October 2008. Woodruff illustrated Jack Handy’s “My Big Thick Novel” for the 2002–3 Emmy Award winning season of Saturday Night Live; and continues to design for the theatre, most recently the decor and costumes for Salome at the Hawaiian Opera Theatre (2002). He briefly worked as a tattooist in the late 1980’s, and has promoted this and other “alternative” forms of image making in the many exhibitions he has curated. He has taught at the School of Visual Arts since 1981, and is currently the Chair of Illustration and Cartooning.