“The natural world is the inspiration for my drawing, painting and multi-media work. I use all of its visual forms—land, plants, flowers, animals, and natural phenomena, such as weather and the seasons. I assign metaphorical properties to the forms of nature, based on my personal reactions and interpretations of the way nature is viewed in the contemporary context—in terms of history, aesthetics, philosophy and politics.
My work begins with direct observation recorded in painting and photography. I create a story for myself that centers around anthropomorphized natural forms, likening and relating their experiences to human experience. Graphically manipulating colors, forms, and contexts, I give natural forms a new kind of life and new relationships, with each other, and with the manmade world.” — BT
Barbara Thomas grew up on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, surrounded by artists. She began studying at age 15 at The Art Students' League, New York, under American Naturalist painter Edwin Dickinson (1891-1978). She went on to study at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, receiving her MFA at Lesley University, Boston, MA.
Thomas began her career as a commercial artist, art director and illustrator, and switched to painting full time in the early 1980s, inspired by her move to the East End of Long Island. She established a following as a house, garden, and property portraitist, with commissions from all over the world, but predominantly working in the Hamptons.
Her fine art has been shown at Ille Arts, Amagansett, NY; Estia Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY; Grenning Gallery, Rebecca Cooper Gallery and Canio’s Gallery, in Sag Harbor, NY; Elaine Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY; Lizan Topps Gallery, East Hampton, NY; and Wally Findlay Gallery, New York, NY.
Thomas has taught and lectured extensively, including at the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY. and at her studio in East Hampton, NY.
rotating exhibit of current & recently sold painting
BARBARA THOMAS speaks to folioeast’s COCO MYERS
CM/ HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY START TO CREATE?
BT/ Almost always using natural forms to begin ideas, I draw small sketches in my sketchbook. I use a lot of digital research, taking images from public domain, or using my own photographs, and playing with them in digital graphics. Then I use those as a base for creating images in more traditional mediums.
CM/ HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED ON THE EAST END?
BT/ My family began coming here in summers over fifty years ago. I then moved here full time when I was a young woman, raising my son here. I moved to New York City for a time, but then moved back about fifteen years ago.
CM/ HOW DOES THIS AREA INFLUENCE OR INFILTRATE YOUR WORK?
BT/ This is where I turned to art making full time (I had worked for 10 years as an advertising art director). I was inspired by the beauty of the landscape, but I have always been a nature girl, and have always used nature themes in my work.
CM/ DOES THE TIME OF YEAR INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
BT/ The seasons play a key role in all my work. I don't differentiate them based on one better than the other. They all have a brilliance and distinct properties that find their way into my work.
CM/ WHERE DO YOU DO YOUR WORK? IN A STUDIO SPACE, OUTSIDE, VARIED SPACES?
BT/ I have a studio in Springs, but I am also a plein air landscape painter, or I work outdoors abstractly, using the light and atmosphere of the landscape in my work.
CM/ DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO OUTDOORS?
BT/ I love Barcelona Point, and take my Parrish Art Museum plein air painting class out there every summer. A particular summer ritual is paddle boarding across Accabonac Harbor, out to the far side of Gerard Point, pull in, and go for a long swim.
CM/ DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM THE ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT ON THE EAST END?
BT/ Very much so. I live right near Jackson Pollock's house and studio, and near Willem de Kooning's studio as well. My work contains a lot of abstraction.
CM/ IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ANYTHING, IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR EAST END ARTIST OR PIECE THAT YOU WOULD LOVE TO HAVE?
BT/ I don't own one, but I loved Sheridan Lord, he was my mentor in my early painting years. I've always respected a lot of Terry Elkins' work. I wish I could have a Cile Downs painting.
rotating exhibit of current & recently sold mixed media