No creative entity deserves to be categorised, boxed, or logged but somehow no matter what, end up in this systematical process in light of trying to understand the Universe. Perhaps we try to make things a lot easier for ourselves to consume so to think we kind-of understand something. We have our busy lives to give thanks to a myriad of excuses on why we don’t engage with the world around us on a heightened level. Really, is life about our connection to others and the earth? Or is it about going through statement notions like buying a car, getting recognition for our work, buying a house? raising a family? Lea Thomas uses art and a human connection to people and our wild earth to make sense of the Universe.
To meet Lea is a precious moment in time where you want to leave all modern day life’s silly details by the door. Strong words, perhaps, but I feel this only appropriate while attempting to describe her. She believes in gathering, creating, and being medicine for others, a quiet and selfless process that keeps her busy in her Brooklyn flat from day to day. Her love for music has shaped her life, picking up a guitar from an early age and making her guitarist-and-textile-designer-dad the proudest guy alive. From a young age Lea has been writing, recording, and playing music, developing her sound over a decade. She talks about her music as a tool that can connect with others. It exists as therapy to those who look for it, and that’s why she is very conscious about how her music is circulated and performed.
Weaving has become a big creative force in Lea’s life. She weaves on a 38 inch wide loom that she sourced from a local weaver who had a great collection in her basement, and continues its life with widespread demand thanks to the thriving local community. When I spoke to Lea days ago, her hands were stained that luscious Indigofera blue from naturally dyeing her yarns, a slow process that starts well before any weaving happens. I suppose these details are what connect Lea to the land and her intentions are reinforced like a meditational chant during her hours spent weaving. A piece may take her 10-15 hours alone in the weaving stage, but as each thread is woven in, a beautiful continuation of motion mimics the way waves crash and retract on a shoreline. We could say that all of us have a connection to the ocean, the world’s greatest mass of matter, but people like Lea who have grown up with water (in Hawaii of all dreamy places) that connection is much more vivid and is very much reflected in her life. When you look at her woven works you will see that deep blue ocean and wild turbulence of swell that pushes your eye from left to right. They are magical in the story that each piece tells.
So to spy into a little window of Lea’s life in New York, you would be looking at a wild spirit that has found herself a home in a very metropolitan city. It seems like a contrast of two opposing ideas, but Lea has shared how she came to terms with it all. She’s a realist. She also loves the energy of a mass of people, magnetised by the idea of a great city, and this is what fuels her yen for community. Without community, her art wouldn’t have purpose. Her life that runs on bartering, sharing, and giving would have no meaning and no energy without a community to feed and fuel it as waves continue to crash on the beach without fail. She travels almost non-stop, foraging for weeds and medicine from Brooklyn to the countryside, and bringing them back to her home to dry, infuse, and bottle for her community to benefit. To me this is a painting of a charming life that stands upright thanks to a connection to the earth, a reality opened up by the realist herself.
/ Words, Lauren Yates / Photography, Eric Kvatek / Thanks to Lea Thomas for opening her home to us /