Barbara Earl Thomass prints go on display Thursday at Paper Hammer.
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Barbara Earl Thomas's prints go on display Thursday at Paper Hammer.

Where Barbara Earl Thomas's people are from, worms are called night crawlers. Night Crawlers and Earthworms (above) is her etching of three people lying on the pages of an open book.

A wall of serpentine grass rises behind them as they focus on their work, intently plucking wriggling night crawlers from the thicket of pages. Their tools are their fingers, pointed at the tips as if adaptively shaped for picking. In contrast, bare feet are soft and slack and curvy, as languorous as the occupation that runs back through Thomas's Southern family: fishing. Waiting, sometimes days, for a bite. "We fish deep," she wrote of her family of fisherpeople, which came to Seattle in the 1940s. She's the first generation out of the South, and resultantly, her images are frozen storms of opposites. They're borderline visions that she says straddle North/South, warm/cool, black/white, emotional/stoic.

Thomas has such a good life story, and is such a good storyteller, that her art can be overlooked.

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