Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Barbara Earl Thomas



Barbara Earl Thomas





It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in midst of the chaos. A central question drives me: What is our responsibility as humans to each other, especially in times of tragedy, violence, death, natural or human disasters? I credit my Southern parents, who migrated to Washington pre-WWII, for my ability to tell a good story. Dramatic tension helps me draw viewers in, finding their own meanings and connections, as I reference the issues most pressing to our own time—from environmental harm, gun violence, or the continuing needless loss of our young Black men. Sometimes I leave a bit of a fairy tale, or a Bible story, entwined with a current event; all are, at their core, archetypal struggles of tragedy, humor, and violence of our everyday lives.


Button Fish, 2018


Derailed, 2018


Firewall, 2016


Retake, 2017

Barbara Earl Thomas (Seattle) is a visual artist and a writer. She has exhibited her work for more than 30 years in exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and Meadows Museum of Art, and her work is in corporate collections including Microsoft and Safeco. She is the recipient of numerous awards, such as a Mayor’s Arts Award and the Howard S. Wright Award from the Seattle Arts Commission, and residencies at Pilchuck, Tacoma Museum of Glass, and Hedgebrook.