William Paul Thomas
William Paul Thomas utilizes his immediate social network and life experiences to produce paintings, prints, and videos that offer complex and enigmatic representations of people of color. Thomas paints representations of the disembodied heads of people in his social circle, and sometimes scrawls text directly over their likenesses. That text is often tinged with dry humor, at times politically incorrect, and is regularly derived from the spoken vernacular of the communities Thomas has been reared by. His overarching goal is to share with diverse audiences what he sees as worthwhile subject matter. That might include religious symbolism or popular slang. Painting is his way of capsulizing this broad, ongoing exploration of the human condition.
Thomas chooses specific models as a way of recognizing their significance in his life’s path. He relishes being able to honor everyday people through making images. As society regularly celebrates women and men of prominence in mass media, Thomas takes advantage of the opportunity to highlight the people that impact him on a more direct level than any untouchable celebrity or distant historical figure could. Thomas integrates text and other symbols into the portrait work to narrow the subject matter to a certain degree and complicate the viewer’s understanding of the portrait subject’s identity. The work begins as an intimate acknowledgement of an individual and is subsequently transformed into a set of symbols poised for the viewer’s investigation.
In 2016, Thomas was the inaugural Artist in Residence at the Power Plant Gallery located on the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC and was the
recipient of an Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant. Thomas is an alumnus of the Master of Fine Arts program in Studio Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. He frequently collaborates with NC-based non-profit Hidden Voices, an organization that brings forward stories of marginalized populations through the arts. Follow updates
from the artist via his social media handle, @willart4food.