Work by Bellevue College Art Instructor Linda Thomas:
For several years I have investigated the expressive potential of infants in precarious positions and undefined space. I’m particularly interested in the newborn as a metaphor for vulnerability. Since a newborn can’t bear the weight of its own head or control its movements, an adult must intervene. The image of an infant is a ‘figure’ that deserves space on the pages rather than the margins of art history.
My aesthetic challenge is to separate infant imagery from habitual associations with mother-hood, religious deities, and contemporary political issues while always guarding against the inherent sweetness and the potential for sentimentality.
Historically, the piece work of quilt-making made it possible for women to work in installments. Initially, piece work was a way for me to conquer large-scale work and divide art-making into manageable portions when I had children at home. Over time, the ritualistic aspect of piece work has become central to my process. The image (or the baby) grows as the 8 1/2″ x 11″modules are completed. In the series (Gestation Drawings) the metaphors of growth and time were mimicked in my process; one drawing each day for nine months.
My earlier work includes an outdoor installation, Billboard Baby: On Time, which also used metaphors of growth, development and time. People driving by witnessed changes in the image; it gradually appeared and then faded away over a two month period. Abstract patches of shape and line were gradually transformed into a recognizable image of a very large, “non-commercial” baby on a highway billboard.
I have also completed several temporary drawings in public spaces. Most recently (October, 2012) I drew 20 hotel-room pillows in the Bellevue College Gallery during the run of the exhibition. The transitory, time-based process mimics the life cycle.
Form and process are integral to the work. The image resides at an intersection between abstraction and representation. I rely on a visible grid to contradict the illusion of volume, to acknowledge the two-dimensional surface and to structure my process. Charcoal drawing was traditionally a preparatory stage for painting; its less-than-adult status still lingers. Paper and charcoal are impermanent, fragile and expendable materials with the potential to be extremely resilient (like babies).
“I am still searching for the expression of those confused sensations that we bring with us at birth.” Paul Cezanne