These Artists Are Redefining the American West

Angelica Aboulhosn for Smithsonian Magazine
That vulnerability runs through Barbara Earl Thomas’ Night Crawlers and Earth Worms. In the small linocut, three fishermen are poised before a rushing stream, set against a deep yellow ground giving way to creamy whites. Crouched, the fishers meld into the fluid scene, as if rocks in the marsh. Here, it seems, is a day like any other. Beyond the brush, in the deep, are people working tirelessly, wordlessly. The print calls to mind the work of 20th-century painter Jacob Lawrence, who taught Thomas, a Seattle-based visual artist, at the University of Washington. In Lawrence’s The Builders, completed in 1980 and on view midway through the show, laborers—their saws and wood planks cast in mustard yellows and bubble gum pinks—hammer away at a building taking shape, tools strewn about. The West exists, just behind the scaffold.
August 19, 2023