Barbara Earl Thomas: The Illuminated Body
February 24, 2023 — August 20, 2023
Glass Projects Space and The Box
Layers of luminous, jewel-colored paper pulse with life behind cut black-paper portraits made by Barbara Earl Thomas.
These new works by the celebrated artist, writer, and thinker meditate on the visual experience of the body within a physical and metaphorical world of light and shadow. Based on real people, the portraits “elevate to the magnificent” her family, friends, and neighbors, as well as cultural icons of the African American literary landscape.
“Like a conjurer, alchemist, and magician, I’ve created my illuminated bodies from scraps of shadow, light, and color. I use them for their elemental qualities to animate and suggest something alive and ever moving—like breath.”
In addition to two-dimensional artworks that give an illusion of illumination, the exhibition includes three-dimensional works in other media that draw on the same working methods and aesthetic results as those of Thomas’s cut-and-layered paper works. Glass vessels with sand-carved imagery glow with the light that passes through the translucent material, while the bodies of visitors will be bathed in light and shadow as they step inside the Transformation Room, a space surrounded with Tyvek curtains that have been cut to filter the light.
A talented visual storyteller, Barbara Earl Thomas has drawn from history, literature, folklore, mythology, and biblical stories over her 40-year career to reflect the social fabric of our times. Thomas’s figural and narrative imagery has a deeply philosophical and emotional force, and light and dark have been especially potent concepts in her work. In this exhibition, Thomas’s illumination of the human figure through light-filled artworks and portraiture encourages the viewer to reflect on how we communicate ourselves to the world and how we perceive those among us.
This exhibition is organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art.