Lava Thomas

Artadia Awardee

As a Bay Area local, it gives me great pleasure to know that two of our community’s most inspiring artistic voices, Marcela Pardo Ariva and Lava Thomas, are receiving not only an important and well-deserved recognition on a national scale, but an award that might help them overcome some of the countless obstacles they are surely facing in this extraordinarily challenging moment.” – Anthony Huberman, Director & Chief Curator, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

Lava Thomas’ recent body of work, a series of portrait drawings showing subjects wearing face masks, demonstrates the artist’s remarkable ability to provoke contemplation and reflection through art.” – Lucy Mensah, Clinical Visiting Assistant Professor, MUSE Program, School of Art & Art History at University of Illinois at Chicago

Lava Thomas (b. Los Angeles, CA)  tackles issues of race, gender, representation, and memorialization through a multidisciplinary practice that spans drawing, painting, sculpture, and site-specific installations. Drawing from her family’s Southern roots, current and historical socio-political events, intersectional feminism and African American protest and devotional traditions, Thomas’s practice centers ideas that amplify visibility, healing, and empowerment in the face of erasure, trauma, and oppression. 

Thomas is a 2019-2021 recipient of the Lucas Artists Fellowship Award at the Montalvo Arts Center and received the Joan Mitchell Grant for Painters and Sculptors in 2015. She has participated in artist residencies at Facebook Los Angeles (2020), Headlands Center for the Arts (2018) and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. Her work has been exhibited in various institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the International Print Center, New York, NY; the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA; and the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Thomas’s work is held in the permanent collections of the United States Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Her work has been written about in Artforum, Hyperallergic, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, KQED Arts, The Art Newspaper, and LA Weekly.

Lava Thomas is the recipient of the 2020 San Francisco Artadia Award.

Image details:

Lottie Green Varner, 2018, Photographer: John Janca
Cora McHaney, 2018
Mrs. A.W. West, Senior, 2018
Euretta F. Adair, 2018
Audrey Belle Langford, 2018, Photographer: John Janca
Jimmie L. Lowe, 2018
Alberta J.James, 2018, Photographer: John Janca