“I am Rust”

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Thomas Carney is a long-time community member at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless. On almost any given day, you can find him at ArtStreet working on his incredible abstract art, or capturing stories with aged found objects, or expressing his frustrations through poetry. He was generous enough to share his story.

"I Am Rust."

Gallery Thomas

My artist statement is: “I am rust”, not just because I’m kind of cranky but because rust is ancient. Rust is only rust because it has been exposed to the elements. Rust is found on objects that have been used by a lot of people, passed through a lot of hands. There is so much history in those objects, so much life lived---it is wisdom. That’s why I choose to do a lot of my art with rusted found objects—just like with me, there’s a story there.


If you are interested in purchasing any of Thomas' artwork, please contact EliseGill@abqhch.org or stop by our ArtStreet studio on our main downtown campus at the corner of First St and Mountain Rd NW.

Thomas' artwork is also currently on view for showing and purchase at Beauty N the Beast Salon at 400 Park Ave in Albuquerque.

"Life I don't think has let me down, but people have."

I remember one time in Seattle, I went into a Denny’s, and I realized I had left my shoulder bag outside. I went up and out to go and get it and I remember the lady she stopped me, and said, “You’re not going to be one of those people who eat and don’t pay are you?” and I said “Well, I haven’t eaten anything yet.” Then when I went outside, my bag was already gone, and that means all my medication was gone as well, and on top of that, they wouldn’t let me back in to buy food. Then I lost my ID, couldn’t get my money, and didn’t know where to go. That was one of the hardest times. I eventually ended up in a shelter, but it didn’t feel safe. I left Seattle because they didn’t have anywhere good for me to go.

Thomas interview 1

Once, I went back to San Francisco, because a friend told me I could stay with him, but then he changed his mind. So, he left me out with no place to go, after I had spent all my money on a bus ticket. He tried to pass me off to friends like a damn dog. I didn’t fight him on it, just unfriended him on Facebook, but I can’t believe somebody would do that, I can’t believe some people’s behavior.

Ultimately, San Francisco got me back here to Albuquerque because somebody helped pay for the bus ticket. Once I got here, I ended up in the Heading Home shelter. I just sat in the parking lot, smoking cigars, with my sunglasses on because I didn’t want nobody to mess with me. I was tired of people.


Then I heard about ArtStreet at this health clinic on First and Mountain and decided to go check it out. And I’ve been working with them ever since. It’s got to be like oh, I don’t know, over 10 years now. Eventually I was able to get a place and get connected---I don’t know about other people, but it can be done. It ain’t easy, it was hard. Real, real hard. But I did it.

Since my first place, I’ve moved around and each place is a little bit better, but nothing is “it” yet. I turned 70 in October, so I want to find some place that is comfortable, that feels like home.

"Now people are listening."

I guess turning 70, you know, it’s just been a long time. I can see things have changed, at least from my perspective. People are meaner, disconnected, nobody will look you in the eye. Nobody will stop and talk to you. I try to say hi to people and they just think I’ll mug them. People used to be able to just talk to each other. And the rent is outrageous. Nobody can afford to get off the street. I’ve never been alive during a time when so many people just don’t care about each other. People getting beat up on the train. People sleeping in the middle of the street. And you hear it all the time. “So many of those people” Those people. It makes me angry, but also breaks my heart. I just don’t understand it.

So, this place, ArtStreet and AHCH, is like a sanctuary. People Care. Art is important, it is healing. It is our stories. It has helped me escape myself, focus, and tell my story. Now people are listening. It makes me have hope, to find my community.

Thomas interview2 1
Thomas interview2

Support more people like Thomas find their way home.

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Show people experiencing homelessness, that you see them. That you hear them. And that you care about them. Break the cycle. 

Humans of Albuquerque

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  1. Dear Thomas, I am moved and inspired by your story and your art. Thank you so much for sharing. Earlier in life I was homeless for a couple of years. I know how hard it can be.
    I am so glad you have been able to find a home for yourself and a place to make and sell your art.
    Kudos to you and to Healthcare for the Homeless!

  2. Hi Thomas! For a minute there I thought your name was Rust. I loved your poem about ‘Rust’ and I’m sure your artwork is equally as soulful. I’m glad you found shelter and home in Albuquerque and apologize for the hardships you endured, but you survived! Your positive outlook served your well. You made me smile, for that I thank you. May you be successful in continuing your art and obtaining better living arrangements. Peace, good health and joy!

  3. Is this the same Thomas Carney who lived in Austin 2008ish? If so, I still have your artwork in my house. It’s moving and thoughtful. Your art is important and has a valid message. Thank you for your artistry.

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