Lava Thomas tackles issues of race, gender, representation and memorialization through a multidisciplinary practice that spans drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, and site-specific installations. Drawing from her family’s Southern roots, current 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.
Meet the Artist: Lava Thomas on "Requiem for Charleston" presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, November 2017
Past Exhibition Catalog
Lava Thomas Selected for the 2020 San Francisco Artadia Award
Lava Thomas was born in Los Angeles, CA and is currently based in Berkeley, CA. She studied at UCLA’s School of Art Practice and received a BFA from California College of the Arts. Thomas is a 2019-2021 recipient of the Lucas Artists Fellowship Award at the Montalvo Arts Center and has participated in artist residencies at Facebook Los Angeles (2020), Headlands Center for the Arts (2018) and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. She was a 2018 Artadia finalist and in 2015 received the Joan Mitchell Grant for Painters and Sculptors.
Thomas’s work is included in the National Portrait Gallery’s triennial exhibition, The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today. Her work has been exhibited in various institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 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. Her 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 Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; the M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA and the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA. Thomas’s work has been written about in Artforum, Hyperallergic, SF Chronicle, The Guardian, KQED Arts, The Art Newspaper, and LA Weekly.