JP Open Studios Preview


Courtesy Photo “Shiva Monkey” is one of the sock monkey photographs created by JP resident Thomas Durand that will be on display during JP Open Studios Sept. 27 and 28.

Thomas Durand: Photographs

Photographer Thomas Durand has been a fixture in Jamaica Plain for over 20 years—first as a resident on Centre Street and now as a sub-contractor at J.P. Licks, where he curates the exhibitions and functions as the ambassador for the arts. Durand is also member of the JP Arts Council, which is organizing the annual JP Open Studios. “I have been connected to the arts community for a long time, and these are the ways I can give back,” he said.

Durand didn’t grow up with sock monkey dolls, but they are integral to his photographs. “I found them later in life while searching for subject matter after a time of personal crisis,” he said. “I had done self-portraits for a while but needed to photograph figures that weren’t me and weren’t someone else—so I started with these.”

Sock monkeys are the red-lipped, floppy dolls fashioned from socks and made to look like monkeys. They began to appear in the 1930s and have now secured their place in pop culture as the focus of coffee table and comic books, calendars, fashion designs and traveling exhibitions, with features on David Letterman and CNN and in the New York Times.

Durand bought his first sock the monkeys from a farm vendor in New York. He later taught himself how to sew, and adds armatures to make them more animated and posed for a photograph. He creates the sock monkeys as sculpture for specific shots, and most are never reused. “I am first and foremost a photographer hunting down a scene,” he said. “Then I incorporate the dolls.”

Durand uses his traditional training to shoot 35mm and 4×5 format film, developing wet process silver prints in his Jamaica Plain darkroom. His method enhances the nostalgia of the images.

This iconic imagery is accessible to people, but the images often express deep emotions, sometimes playful, sometimes comforting. Durand is working on a future project “Ten Ton Tail” that incorporates a sock monkey dragging a big ball and chain. “It’s really about depression,” noted Durand. “The sock monkeys find their way into my work when I need to express something that usually deals with pain.” His collectors call them cute and edgy at the same time.

Durand will exhibit this series at the Small Works Show and Sale in May, where he sold out last year, and during Open Studios at J.P. Licks. Durand’s work can also be viewed and purchased on his web site,

On display

The second annual Small Works Show and Sale will feature the work of over 30 local artists at the Milky Way Lounge on May 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. The original works of art are 5×7 inches maximum and will be sold for the uniform price of $50. The event will include raffle baskets and music, with proceeds supporting Open Studios. All artists are invited to participate by e-mailing [email protected]

JP Open Studios is celebrating its 15th year as the premiere annual arts event in one of Boston’s most exciting neighborhoods. Open Studios showcases 220 artists at 75 sites. The event is open to the public and will take place Sept. 27 and 28 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, to register and to preview artists’ work, visit or call 943-7819.

JP Open Studios is supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency that is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events.

The writer is the coordinator of JP Open Studios.

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