American Purgatorio

American Purgatorio
Seattle artist Barbara Earl Thomas occupies a singular place in contemporary American art. Exploring themes of African American history, her evocative, image-rich tableaus link the latent mysticism of Northwest art with drama of scripture and violent memories of slavery and the Jim Crow South. After a career spanning nearly four decades, Thomas is the subject of a retrospective at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (June 25 - October 9, 2016). Heaven on Fire includes numerous early paintings, scores of recent prints, and—most significantly—a series of new etched glass vessels and a large, chapel-like installation of cut paper. While the title of the exhibition suggests the existence of a Dantean Paradiso (Heaven) that serves simultaneously as an Inferno (Hell), Thomas' works reveals a state more akin to the Italian poet’s Purgatorio; a place where one must pass …