Heaven on Fire

Solo exhibition spans 30 years of work by Seattle Artist Barbara Earl Thomas

Bainbridge Island Museum of Artis proud to present Heaven on Fire, a survey of over sixty (60) artworks by Barbara Earl Thomas, with work spanning from the early 1980s to present. Included in this exhibition are paintings, prints, glass sculpture, paper cuts, and a site-specific installation including the artist’s writings. Heaven of Fire is curated by Greg Robinson (BIMA Executive Director & Curator) with assistance from Amy Sawyer (Curatorial Associate) and Scott Farwell (Facilities Manager).

“Barbara Earl Thomas seemed too young for a retrospective, and frankly her career is on fire – our goal was to pick a point in time when we could show a compelling range of older, mid-career, and newer series of work,” notes executive director and curator, Greg Robinson. “This is that perfect point in time. We are very pleased to have borrowed works from prominent private and public collections, including Tacoma Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, City of Seattle, and King County/4 Culture to mount this exhibition.”

Barbara Earl Thomas is a Seattle-based artist who has exhibited professionally since the early 1980s. Her far-ranging exhibits include the Seattle and Tacoma Art Museums, with solo national exhibits at the Meadows Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana and in the Evansville Museum of Art and Technology in Indiana. Her work is included in many public, corporate and private collections. Barbara is a graduate of the School of Art, University of Washington where she received her Master of Arts in 1977. She counts herself most fortunate to have had mentorships with Michael Spafford and Jacob Lawrence who have both influenced her work and life. Thomas’s early inspirations and paintings are well documented in “Storm Watch: The Art of Barbara Earl Thomas”, with a foreword by Jacob Lawrence and an introduction by Vicki Halper (University of Washington Press, 1998). She was represented for many years by Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle.

Thomas is noted for a social commitment to her community that is broad and inclusive. As an artist, she has a long and consistent practice of including the world in her art, and her life in the world. Through her administrative work in organizations such as the Seattle Arts Commission and Bumbershoot, she has given time and energy in support of individual artists in all genres. In 2012 she stepped down from the directorship of the Northwest African American Museum where she was instrumental in launching museum and establishing the broad-based support that sustains it.

Barbara has received numerous awards - most recently the Yvonne Twining Humber Award from Artist Trust (Seattle), and has been nominated for the Genius Award from The Stranger. She is also a writer and lecturer who has published essays on a variety of topics, and monographs on artists such as Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Joe Fedderson, Cappy Thompson, Alan Rohan Crite, and Julie Speidel.

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art will be publishing a book on Thomas’ work, including the latest series of glass sculptures, paper cuts, and a site specific installation. The book will be published though Lucia/Marquand in August 2016 and will be available at the BIMA Museum Store.

For more information please also reference www.barbaraearlthomas.com

In this podcast, Barbara gives BCB a preview of her Eye on Artist Lecture, sharing what inspires her, her choice of materials and her methods. Her widely acclaimed show, favorably reviewed by The Seattle Times, The Stranger, and other publications, spans over 30 years of her lively works in egg tempera, linocuts, blown glass, and expansive paper cuts in a site-specific installation, and includes some of her thought provoking writings. Produced by Bainbridge Community Broadcasting.


"Is it me or is there a Black arts explosion in the midst of this death cycle?"

C. Davida Ingram sent me that question recently.

If you are exhausted and numb from the news, but still care deeply and don't want to drop out of this cultural moment of tangling with race in America, you should spend time looking at what these artists have made.



Barbara Earl Thomas’ paintings sing right out with a linear flow as distinct as a rising melody. That visual musicality has been a touchstone of her work since the 1980s, making it as instantly identifiable as Emily Carr’s or Jacob Lawrence’s. Her personal iconography — besieged human figures in loving embrace, crows as trickster-companions-cum-predators, books as capacious homes for the mind to inhabit — has provided a through-line of subject matter over the decades.



The Seattle Times: Barbara Earl Thomas retrospective looks back at 30 years of artist's inventive works

Bainbridge Island Review: Living Legend on Bainbridge 

The Stranger: Recommended, Don't Miss

The Stranger: 2016 Stranger Genius Award Nominee...

The Seattle Times: In Seattle art world, women run the show

The Seattle Times: Barbara Earl Thomas' linocuts blend the surreal with the lyrical

Artist Trust: Barbara Earl Thomas Receives 2016 Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award






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