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    Four women stand against a wall, hands behind their backs. Their lingerie is vintage, chests exposed, chins tilted upward. Anasazi Thomas found the black-and-white photograph on some old blog and loved the female figures. She used them as the subject of her first screen-printing piece: The women stand proudly within a pink circle, its edge like lace.

    This was at the University of Louisville in 2012, when her prints were more straightforward, simple. Since then, her work has become collage-like, kaleidoscopic. By the time she graduated from U of L in 2014, her pieces had overgrown the tables and she’d started working on the floor. Her professor was a little skeptical about how the silkscreen would pick up all of Thomas’ tiny details. Still, she’d paint the stencils — shapes that she likens to insect shells, moths, Transformers — on vellum sheets, then use packing tape to temporarily anchor her photocopied drawings: snakes and birds and flowered branches that grow into wing-like things, lines and moons and eyes. Now, Thomas has hundreds of drawings that she pulls from little leather suitcases and spreads around her like puzzle pieces. “I’m constructing and deconstructing,” the 30-year-old says. “I have to go into the piece and come out of it.”

    Thomas fits the work to a silkscreen, vacuum-seals it in the wooden frame, lines the top with ink — she likes to mix copper in her black ink for a subtle sheen and has recently been experimenting with ink made from black walnuts, which create a warmer hue and are “very archival” — and then uses some strength to pull the “squeegee” from one end of the screen to the other, coating the initial proof, and the next, and the next. Thomas prints her pieces on paper and wood and fabric pieces up to nine feet tall — “biggies,” she calls them. They’ve hung throughout town (at KMAC, Revelry and the Kentucky Derby Museum) and even at the U.S. embassy in Senegal.

    Figures emerge and re-emerge in Thomas’ layered, intricate works. There are symbols for Mercury, Earth. Otherworldly, alien-esque figures. Boxes and circles and other hard lines take shape in some works, similar to the sketches in her Moleskine or banana-leaf journals filled with the freedom of “automatic line drawings” (like stream-of-consciousness sketches) and responses to music like jazz’s Alice Coltrane. There are more women. One’s legs splay, knees knocked outward, feet touching into a triangle. “I photographed friends’ bodies as geometric shapes,” Thomas says. “I’m diving into the relationship with the female body and how that connects to aspects of nature and sacred geometry.”

    On the hardwood floor in her Clifton home’s craft room, Thomas points to a part of a piece that looks like whiskers and to another part that somebody once compared to the Virgin Mary. She says she likes to keep the always-a-little-asymmetrical pieces untitled so she doesn’t limit anyone’s interpretations. Instead, she uses symbols or emojis that mimic the design, e.g.: ||>}:{<||.

    Lately, Thomas hasn’t been doing much screen-printing, instead focusing on learning the fiddle. And on sewing clothes. She wants to turn the stack of flannel in the craft room into capes. (She has had some of her screen-printed fabrics fashioned into dresses, a couple of which showed in KMAC Couture.) She’s looking into residencies, like the one in Copenhagen with its huge screen-printing studios. The other day, she started sketching dried flowers that friends were using to make wreaths. She’s excited to photocopy these. “I feel a draw toward getting back to simpler compositions,” she says.

    This originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Details, Details." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photos courtesy of Ansazi Thomas.


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