Photo of the artist by Lissa Gotwals, first published in Art of The State: Celebrating the Visual Art of North Carolina, published by UNC Press, 2022
Barbara Campbell Thomas (b. 1975, York, PA) is a painter based in North Carolina.
Barbara Campbell Thomas’s paintings harness geometric abstraction and a materially rich surface of paint, collage and sewn fabric to explore how her ancestral past shapes who she is as an artist. In her most recent body of work, titled Edna's Diamonds, Barbara Campbell Thomas mines the presence of abstraction in her own matrilineal ancestry, calling upon the handwork of her great-great grandmother to anchor her visual language.
Edna’s Diamond's refers to the repeated pattern of blue and grey diamonds furled across a small rag rug made by Edna Otto Bame in the early 20th century. Passed down to Campbell Thomas’s mother, the rug was a memorable presence of domestic abstraction in the artist’s childhood home. Over the last year, Barbara Campbell Thomas allowed the blues and greys of the rug to direct color, resulting in her most focused palette in over twenty years. This decision to limit color to those selected by her own great-great grandmother spurred on a conversation between these two women tied by blood and a mutual devotion to geometric abstraction.
Edna’s Diamonds also centers on a buoyant formal exploration of the diamond shape set within the square or rectangle created by the chosen painting frame. Across these paintings, diamonds play a game of relay, enacting a visual call and response with each other that mirrors, alights and anchors. The paintings converse, their rhythmic cadence a delightful reflection of the imaginative dialogue Barbara Campbell Thomas holds with her own maternal ancestor.
Barbara Campbell Thomas has exhibited her paintings in museums and galleries across the United States, including the Weatherspoon Art Museum (Greensboro, NC), the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia Beach, VA), The Painting Center (NYC), the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art (GA), the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (Winston-Salem, NC), the North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC), Ortega Y Gasset Projects (Brooklyn, NY), Maake Projects (State College, PA), Wavelength Space (Chattanooga, TN) and Hidell Brooks Gallery (Charlotte, NC).
Her work has been written about in Two Coats of Paint, Art Papers, The Coastal Post and BURNAWAY.
Barbara Campbell Thomas attended Skowhegan and is a Fellow of the Yale Summer School of Art and Music. Other residencies include the Hambidge Center, the Elizabeth Murray Artist Residency and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She is a recipient of the North Carolina Artist Fellowship. Barbara Campbell Thomas lives and works in Climax, North Carolina. She is a Professor of Art in the School of Art at UNC Greensboro.