Stumbled Upon: Alma Thomas
February 6, 2014
The snow was coming and I was racing around town before my weather sequester began. When I got to the store the parking lot was filled, and cars were backed out onto the street (obviously, everyone's storm timing was in sync). I made a sharp turn, went around the block, and parked in front of a house that was undergoing renovation. When I got out I noticed an historical marker on the building. Looking closer, I discovered the house once had belonged to Washington, D.C. painter Alma Thomas.
Okay, so maybe my day wasn't going south after all. I took out my phone, stepped back and took some photos. Born in 1891 in Columbus, Georgia, Thomas and her family moved into the Logan Circle neighborhood in 1906. Alma Thomas lived there until her death in 1978. In the 1960s her paintings took off as she became part of the rich world of the Washington Color School, along with Morris Louis, Gene Davis, and Leon Berkowitz. Looking at her house, I remembered she was strongly connected to nature and her garden (this little one in the front or something I couldn't see at back?). Her paintings, such as Autumn Leaves Fluttering in the Breeze, are rich in color and form, and display her signature "color pats." As I would later learn, Thomas often talked about "watching the leaves and flowers tossing in the wind as though they were singing and dancing."
Educator, as well as artist, she was clearly a remarkable woman. I look now at her paintings and imagine she's staring out the window of her house, and watching the light and the leaves and the world on the other side of the glass. As I stare deep into this painting I can almost imagine the artist peering out from the other side; Alma, is that you?
With more than 30 paintings in its holdings, American Art has one of the most important collections of Alma Thomas's works in the world.