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Claire Oliver Gallery is proud to announce Make A Joyful Noise, a solo exhibition of new papercuts by artist Barbara Earl Thomas

Posted November 3, 2022

Opening in Harlem on November 11th, 2022 with a champagne toast from 6-8 pmI

"I use my knife like the oar that slices the water’s surface in a swirling motion to reveal through some magic the bio fluorescence—I cut to reveal, to make seen.   

The body is a liquid vessel, a sculptural form that carries its own light emitted in gestures, movements, sighs, and whispers that spill out into the cracks and fissures of this world."
Barbara Earl Thomas


Claire Oliver Gallery is pleased to announce Make a Joyful Noise, a solo exhibition by artist Barbara Earl Thomas, featuring nine large-scale paper-cut portraits. Thomas’ portraiture is created through intricate cut black paper, reminiscent of historical silhouettes, but her subjects are fully rendered and employ backgrounds in vibrant, celebratory coloration.  In this series, Thomas explores the impulse towards human creativity, specifically music, as a means of survival and as a universal experience. Make a Joyful Noise features portraits of characters playing music as an act of joy in the face of suffering and upheaval due to war, the pandemic, and structural racism.

“Through music, we can transcend the challenges that we all face on this earth,” states Thomas. “I was very drawn to this idea while creating this series, how we as humans have uplifted our spirits through song throughout history.  From the pandemic to the chain gang, music is uniquely powerful and I aimed to represent this visually here.”
 R) Two Trains, 2022, paper cut with hand-printed color, 55 x 26 in
L) Middle Passage, 2022, paper cut with hand-printed color, 55 x 26 inThe Seattle-based multi-media artist’s work is narrative-driven, often drawing from literature, popular culture, history, and music. In Make A Joyful Noise, Thomas takes up the narrative of characters using music as a form of resistance; a cello player appears in the midst of a war-torn Bosnian landscape to play his instrument, plague-worn Italians take to balconies singing, freedom singers raise their voices outside an Alabama jail, and men bound together in a chain gang sing in syncopation to the metronome of cracking hard rock.  Influenced by rhythm and musicality as her narrative focus, Thomas also references sequences of dialogue by authors August Wilson and Charles Johnson who navigate the post-Jim Crow generation. In Trumpet Offering, Thomas references the 1985 play Fences’ character Gabriel Maxon who plays the trumpet in order to open heaven’s gate on judgment day, an example from literature of a character-driven to music to achieve a loftier, although tragic, goal.  Her visual drama incorporates clues and subtext embedded in clothing, objects, and instruments. 
 Exhibition Preview
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