About This Exhibition

Barbara Earl Thomas, Girl and the World, 2022. Cut black paper on hand-printed colored papers, 41 x 1/4 x 26 1/2 inches. Collection of Hope and Steven Leibsohn

The Illuminated Body features cut-and-layered paper portraits of Thomas’ family, friends, and neighbors, as well as icons of Black literature. Although they depict everyday people, her intricate and glowing artworks create a sacred atmosphere, reminiscent of medieval stained glass windows or illuminated manuscripts, where the familiar seems interwoven with the timeless and the mythical. “I want to take the normal and elevate it to the magnificent,” says Thomas. Also included are three glowing glass vessels that feature designs reminiscent of her papercuts. The exhibition culminates in the immersive installation titled The Transformation Roomwhere light filters through hand-cut Tyvek screens. This space of radiance and luminosity allows the visitor to become part of Thomas’ art. In each light-filled work, Thomas hopes to reveal our “spiritual bodies,” the mythical and profound characteristics that are part of all of us. 

Barbara Earl Thomas is a celebrated contemporary artist based in the Seattle area who draws inspiration from history, folklore, biblical stories, and her Southern roots. Working in a variety of media—including paper, painting, and glass—Thomas’ work reflects on the social fabric of our time. As a visual storyteller, Thomas seeks to challenge prevailing narratives and replace images of fear and dread with those of grace, resilience, and community. Her work in Barbara Earl Thomas: The Illuminated Body invites viewers to reflect on how we present ourselves to the world and how we perceive those around us.

Barbara Earl Thomas: The Illuminated Body is organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Purchase tickets here

Paper cutout art titled

Barbara Earl Thomas, Girl with Flowers II, 2022. Cut black paper on hand-printed colored papers, 29 x 56 1 /2 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Burneta Adair Endowment Fund, 2023.11

DeVore Foundation
The Fidelity
Bank Foundation
Sondra Langel 

Charles E. Baker and Jim V. Phillips Exhibition Fund
Charles E. Baker
Emily Bonavia
Emprise Bank
Dr. Harold and Mrs. Evelyn Gregg
Sonia Greteman and Chris Brunner
The Gridley Family Foundation
Lou and Terry Heldman
IMA Foundation
The Shaw Family Foundation
Lee and Ron Starkel
Georgia and Keith Stevens
Janice and Jeff Van Sickle 

2023 exhibitions and public programs are generously supported by the Downing Foundation. All museum exhibitions receive generous sponsorship from the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum and the City of Wichita. This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.  

Purchase tickets to see Barbara Earl Thomas: The Illuminated Body and Fighters for Freedom: William H. Johnson Picturing Justice
Purchasing a single ticket provides access to both exhibitions.
FREE for WAM members (not a member? Click here to join.)
• $12 for adults/seniors
• FREE for college students w/ID + youth 18 & under