Local Artist Spotlight: Marc Thomas
Marc Thomas’ work is a celebration of life. Formerly a self-described “angry artist,” critiques and foresight led him toward a more positive subject matter. “All of my stuff was politically charged and controversial,” he says. “Everything that’s going on now, back in ’92, ’93, the same stuff was going on then.”
Today, he says he no longer depicts what goes on in the news, and has moved away from stereotypical themes. “My thing is, we see enough of that already,” he says. “I am an artist that just happens to be black. I can choose other artistic stuff to do. So my thing is to take you away from that.”
Thomas’ style of painting is inspired by post-Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence. His bright, simplistic abstractions depicted everyday life for African Americans from the 1930s to 1970s. Thomas’ abstract style has evolved into a more urbanized version, what he calls “Urban Abstract Expressionism.”
Like Lawrence, Thomas’ abstractions portray an emotionally-driven narrative. He describes them as hyper-focused, themed, and referential — his Halftime Band collection incorporates the flashy uniforms and animated dance routines of HBCU band musicians up close, while portraits in his Soul Food collection fill the frame with collard greens and yams while people cook or eat on. Many of his subjects are shown mid-stride or in movement, a creative touch that may have something to do with his dance background.
His portraits have also looked at subjects on a much more personal level. In Thomas’ Strokes for Life series, he finds individuals who are dealing with hardships — be it a difficult diagnosis, addiction, recovery, or the loss of a loved one — and paints a tribute that highlights the subject’s life and accomplishments.
One series particularly close to him is focused on breast cancer and survivors. He’s able to relate to these themes more, so much so that he travels just about anywhere to honor them. He once painted a portrait of a patient while in her hospital room for three hours at the James Cancer Hospital; he’s also been invited to performance poetry and dance at a survival ceremony with Susan G. Komen Columbus.
This work is fulfilling for Thomas, who affirms art, in any form, has the power to be therapeutic. He’s a living example of it.
“Art is a great healing tool,” says Thomas. “Being a survivor of child abuse, I was able to escape through the arts — whether it was dance, whether it was poetry. I was able to express myself through that. And that actually helped me in the healing process.”