Painted a wood chip to match the décor
Backflipped on a mattress blacker than the floor
Captured that refraction so splendid
Reverse, curve it, liabel to shift at any minute
A chameleon at all costs, a smidgeon of my percentage
Life as a coin toss and a 50 cent portion
of my mental spent on gettin a point across


TEEF: Good for the Soul from William Paul Thomas on Vimeo.

In the midst of all the turmoil and rampant violence happening around the country, I think it is imperative that we all identify creative strategies to counter negative energy with life-affirming interventions. I collect short audio clips from men recounting personal moments of happiness. I record some of these men smiling as long as they can before it becomes unbearable. My goal is to compose a series of awkward and endearing living portraits that stitch together the lives of a diverse group of men using their own words.

Hashtag Maternal Heritage

"HashtagMaternalHeritage" oil on canvas. 54" x 30"

I saw this girl in a parking lot one day at UNC, and I asked her if she would let me paint her portrait. Her complexion and her hair color caught my eye. Whenever I meet a black person with skin lighter than mine, I assume they have a closer White ancestor than I'd find in my own family tree. She came to sit for some photos. We talked. Her mother is actually German. That detail about her mother's identity might have been the least provocative thing of everything we discussed. At the same time I realized that I'm obsessed with that question: "What are you?" I know that's ignorant and fortunately it never actually comes out of my mouth that way, but I always want to know details about a person's ethnic background. Most of the time a conversation based on that inquiry falls flat, but somehow my curiosity still feels justified.

small art | BIG STRESS

Jennifer challenged me. "Why is the tape slightly raised on both ends?" The truth: it must've been lifted in transit.

I shipped 56 small paintings in a FedEx box to a local gallery in my hometown. At the opening reception, my sister noticed the aforementioned tape faux pas on one of the pieces and I offered her an insufficient rebuttal. Last night I had an awful dream in which Jenna gave me the toughest critique of my life. That critique ignited a shouting match and I felt more rage than one should ever feel when discussing tiny paintings. What does this mean? Well, I'm sensitive about my stuff. I was salty that Jenna saw a flaw in my craft that I couldn't defend. I'm insecure about this new direction I'm taking with my work. That nightmare was an indicator of all those things. Now what? I need to tighten up my craft, even for paintings that are meant to be crude. I love this new body of work, so I need to worry less about what everyone else thinks of it.

And to sum up this little cursory dream analysis, I'm grateful that this is my reality. One of my major stressors in life comes from people objectively responding to something that I've made; [because I'm privileged enough to claim that as a profession.]  My response to why that tape wasn't completely parallel to the surface of the canvas was wordy and meandering. My unconscious mind is feeling the brunt of Jenna's astute, albeit unexpected, observation. Nice catch, mug!! Nice catch.

Pauses Short & Brief

There are several young women in a staggered, seemingly choreographed formation in a small, brightly lit room.  Mirrors cover three of the four walls.  All the women are speaking at once.  They appear to understand each other despite the deafening lack of silence between each phrase.  Every assertion excites more than the last. The clamoring briefly subsides as a tiny boy climbs to the floor from a leather hydraulic chair.  The boy approaches a woman in the group.  The volume rises again.  Not speaking, the boy grabs the woman's blouse; tugs at it.  He is barely half her height and smaller than the leg he firmly wraps himself around.  He wants attention.  She understands.  His grip is firm. He peers up at a woman standing less than a foot away from the pillar he’s latched on to.  She looks back; sneers.  He tightens his grip.  The women continue.

Blanket in Tree for Friends

I'd been printing images of small paintings on blankets.  I decided to make one especially for the MLK & Estes rush hour crowd in Chapel Hill.  I wanted people to call me.  That's as far as my plan got.  I thought that there was a good chance that it would be removed.  It stayed up for a little over a week.  I only hope that the person that took it down didn't throw it away.  It'd been outdoors in the rain, in the trees, surrounded by poison ivy; but it could be cleaned and used.

Daily Tar Heel Interview

DTH Interview with Elizabeth Tew

Click the link above to read the interview that was printed in yesterday's DTH. Some of what I'm saying makes no sense. Unfortunately, this is what I sound like when I'm trying to express myself verbally on a regular basis, but I think Elizabeth actually edited it well enough so that it's not a complete jumble.  Talk to me for clarification.

Photo by Logan Savage

KJM @ Nasher

Wednesday, October 10th, I went to the Nasher Museum at Duke to hear a lecture given by Chicago-based painter, Kerry James Marshall.  One of the first slides that he showed during his presentation was this painting from 1981, "Portrait of the Artist & a Vacuum."  This piece is currently on display and is a part of the Nasher's permanent collection.  Marshall has studied the history of painting very extensively and the trajectory that he's followed as an artist reveals the extent of his studies. 

Along with tackling the history of painting, a lot of his work deals with the idea of the hierarchical value assigned to skin color in the black community.  He paints these figures that are literally black.  The paintings are remarkable, but he says that there are conflicting responses to the figures.  Some claim to love that they are so emphatically black and see them as undeniably beautiful.  Others have difficulty seeing that same blackness as representing beauty.

My personal attraction to and fascination with his work was solidified when I came across the painting above.  It belongs to The Garden Project series he completed in the mid '90s.  I lived with my mother and two sisters in Altgeld Gardens until I was 11 years old.  I often point to this place as an environment that significantly shaped my early childhood development and present worldview.  How many people have seen their own homes represented in the work of a prominent artist?  Not many, by my estimation.
The last picture that I've posted here is an image capture of a Google Map situated in an area of Altgeld Gardens.  The landscaping is very different from what I recall, but I also hadn't spent any time viewing the place from hundreds of feet above.  The image within the pink frame is a snapshot of a gathering for my sister's 3rd or 4th birthday.  I like the kind of interior specificity this particular Polaroid offers compared to the architectural homogeneity presented in the map.  Marshall's painting offers another kind of specificity that I really enjoy.  No one else could have made his paintings.  How many master painters are there from Nickerson Gardens by way of Birmingham, Alabama?  I have no idea, but I imagine that that number is very small.  I suppose the ratio of master painters to every other kind of artist on the planet is also relatively lopsided.  Who paints nowadays?

I'm saying all that to say that the world is constantly changing, shrinking, growing, and moving all around us, so it's nice to find yourself in a place where something that feels important is happening. Right place, right time, and all that.  I had that feeling during his lecture.

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CUR(eat): Educate Your Mind, Feed Your Stomach

Can art be tasted?
In this next exercise we explore the intersection between art and ecology through the politics of food. For Monday Oct. 8th, Seminar 4- we will meet at my house in Carrboro. In the spirit of artist Elaine Tin Nyo and others such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, we will gather for a potluck. We are also going to discuss the first set of readings as lead by their respective groups (we will have a projector available if needed).
First things first…
Do you recall that old Supermarket Sweep reality show that was revived in the 90′s?? Where one races against the clock, running around a supermarket filling up their shopping carts and the value of the items determined the winning team? Well…yes, you guessed it. I can almost guarantee you that it will be a first = grocery shopping challenge.
The Challenge: A week from tomorrow, I will ask you to meet at Whole Foods in Chapel Hill @ 6:30pm. With a crisp $20 bill, you will purchase the ingredients for a recipe of the dish you will make for the potluck. But spending less than $20 at Whole Foods is a bigger challenge than the last project, you may be thinking…well yes, so the challenge will be to use the least amount of money and still have all of your ingredients.
The Dish: UNC has launched an academic theme about water for the next couple of years- issues dealing with availability around the world, health/sanitation, the economy, social development, and education. If you remember at our first seminar, I provided you with a list from UNICEF of countries around the world experiencing disasters in drought. Here is the list once again —> UNICEF.
I thought that we would combine this academic plan with some of the topics in our readings.
1. Choose one of the countries on the list and prepare a traditional meal from that country. You may borrow the recipe as you find it, or you may alter it to make it your own. Share it at the potluck.
2. In the process of researching your recipe- think about the implications of drought for the making of this dish in its native country- if not as a conversation piece then as an educational tidbit.
3. Share this recipe on the class blog for all of us to have (including an image).
The Venue: My back yard. This is probably one of the largest back yards in Carrboro and often mistaken for a public park. A small piece of history is still visible among all the development around- old barns, dinner bell- remnants of the old family farm that date back to the 1930′s even 20′s. There used to be an old white horse fence surrounding the property, which was recently removed a few years ago. I always found it interesting that even though it may look like private property, the removal of the fence has welcomed carrborites to now see it as a free public space.
We will have our potluck in the field. A sight for potential welcoming of the passerby.
image: from Elaine Tin Nyo’s “I want to Make Some Tamales”

Hello up there.

Who's up there looking down?  I s'pose there ain't much to see.  A stripe. A stripe. A stripe.  Ad infinitum. Or at least until I'm done.