Meet San Francisco artist Deloris Thomas, who exhibited her work with hundreds of other artists at the annual Open Studios, held every year in a number of the city’s neighborhoods over the course of a month.
One of my favorite studios is the Soma Artist Studios, where Deloris shows her work.
I talked to Deloris recently about how she got started as an artist. She was introduced to the studio through fellow artist Renee Eaton, who she currently shares a space with on San Francisco’s Bryant Street. The studio was part of an Art Teaching Group, where Renee taught watercolors.
Originally from Napa, California, Deloris was always drawing when she was a child. Her creative flare resulted in paper dolls, clothes, houses and ceramics, which she did for over 12-15 years before returning to painting. I bought an earlier piece she did which was more abstract in nature, exuding red and orange streaks with green undertones. You could vaguely see images and shapes and if someone told you the piece was set in Tuscany, you wouldn’t entirely be surprised, but you also wouldn’t discover that entirely on your own without a background story either.
I love her use of diffused soft romantic and dreamy colors. She did a series on horses but in recent years, she has focused largely on figurines. The below depicted style represents her recent work. These pieces have stronger lines and the figurines seem more forceful to me somehow as if they have a more direct and certain place they wish to go. There’s no waivering; the figures show nothing but clarity and strength.
Her series of horses derived from seeing ancient Greek friezes at the British Museum. Her interest in animals brought out the bull series and occasionally she still dabbles with bulls from time-to-time. The latest pieces I saw in late October were of smaller figurine pieces and horizontal pieces such as the one below. The figures are all about movement, walking, moving in and out of space. She says, “the work comes from subconscious thoughts about human relations.”
Human movement opposed to more static figures with softer less defined borders and direction shown in the larger pieces below.
I also discovered the work of another artist recently who paints a lot of figurines, and they too have no faces. Says Susan Bostrom Wong about her lack of detail: “its about emerging figures, emerging self into a new world, a new person they have become.” Largely women, her emerging series suggest strength of the new emerging self, both from the pose they carry and the colors she uses. These two women should meet and I tell both of them so.
Use of color for Deloris depends on the mood she’s in. I personally see a lot of muted colors in her work, largely blues, grays and some off reds that often hide in the background. I ask her about her figurines and why there are limited borders, parameters are uncertain, and faces are not there. She says, “why they have no faces is a good question. My work does not represent ‘certain’ people.”
I fell in love with a piece Deloris did called Earth Mother, which I switched to Mother Earth because for some reason, the mothering part of the image was more dominant than the earth image I see in it. Claiming earth as part of its identity is clearly something that jumps off the page as does its earth-like colors, but it is the figure’s nurturing and caring nature of the smaller images that make their way into my unconsciousness. And so, she has become Mother Earth to me.
Says Deloris of Mother Earth, “she appeared from nowhere. I wanted to do something bigger than usual and I cannot really say where she came from. The female condition? I cannot say for sure. She stands still whereas my latest painting shows figures on the move. The difficulty in that painting was the composition. I tried one figure going this way and another way and it did not work until I made them all going one way as if struggling to attain ‘something.'”
Is there a well known artist who inspired you, I ask.
Nathan Oliveira because of his figures in a large space. “His work has inspired me in the direction I have gone.” One of his figures below:
“And,” she says, “Goya because he was the greatest of the greats and the diversity of his work is astounding from portraits of kings and queens to disasters of war.” Be sure to check out her work online as well as the next San Francisco Open Art Studios.
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