NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 48

Lava Thomas My studio practice has a tendency toward an investigation of the body, its limits, and the desire for transcendence. When I work in portraiture, the process is particularly driven by this physicality, and the resulting images are often concerned with interiority and embodiment. When fragments of my drawings find themselves in a kinetic installation, or when eyes burst out unexpectedly in full color from a portrait rendered in monochromatic hues, it is to purposefully defy and transcend the boundaries of surface, genre and medium.  Even the boundary of time itself can be challenged. In my ongoing series of portraits titled Childhood, from 2012-13, I painted myself and two other subjects — all of us adults — from photographs taken when we were children. In this year’s Looking Back portraits, I used drawing to reproduce at large scale the faces of two women that had reached out and grabbed me while looking through a photo album of portraits of black men and women from the late 1800s, which I had found at my grandmother’s house. Working on the portraits for a year and half with the women’s stern gazes fixed on me, I had the unnerving sense that it was actually myself and my times that were being scrutinized from across four generations. 46 Meanwhile, the installation Seeing Now began to grow as if with a life of its own, filling my studio with shadows and reflections that changed constantly. In its eruption of forms I sensed the manifestation of something irrepressible — a refusal to be silenced — and a confirmation that everything we need to go further is right here, right now. n Visual Arts