Artist Barbara Earl Thomas On Creation, Contemplation and Bringing People Together

Jahunyia Healis for OBSERVER

Born in Seattle, artist Barbara Earl Thomas represents the first generation of her family to be born outside of the South—a relocation primarily influenced by her father’s military service. “At that time in the 60s and 70s, Black neighborhoods were pretty cohesive because you had to all live together,” she tells Observer. “And it was good.”


Reflecting on her childhood, Thomas emphasized the importance of human touch in creation. “I wasn’t from an art-making family,” she explains. “I’m from a making family.” Anything you needed, you made, whether that was curtains, a dress, a slipcover or anything else. You made it because there was a need and because you wanted things to be beautiful. “I’m very much from the tradition of the hand and the story and the making.”

March 5, 2024