Friday, March 30, 2018

Christina Thomas: Healing Through Art

Christina Thomas, "Hope" Prayer Box, 2017, featured in the Bosom Bodies exhibition, 2017

Spring is finally here!  And with the warmer days, we plant seeds in our gardens to bring us the  beauty of flowers and healthiness of fresh food.  In short - we not only hope for better days ahead after winter, we make it happen with our own creative forces.

Artist Christina Thomas knows this too well and practices sowing her seeds of hope through her art. She began with herself and then she spread her "power of personal freedom" to others in need of healing, inspired by Dr. Winston Collins' book.  What else inspired her?  Here is her story: 

Christina Thomas, Untitled, 2017

Beth: When did you decide to dedicate yourself to developing the artist within yourself?

ChristinaI have been painting since I was 11 as an emotional outlet. After a severe flair up with Multiple Sclerosis.  My body and spirit were broken.  Painting became a therapeutic endeavor sculpting tissue into text.  This was the way of healing the agility of my fingers but not my soul.  I found myself in a very dark place and a spiritual journey was set before me.  I began working on a series called Seven Ways to Sunday.  It was based on the sermons I was hearing each Sunday.  I had been led to a community of believers.  They taught me that God was love.  Love is for everyone.  The shame and guilt began to melt away.  My art became less about escape and began to heal what was broken within.

Beth: What were the circumstances? 

Christina: The circumstances I had to overcome were the fight I had within myself.  I was struggling to be authentic.  I was struggling with past trauma.  I was dealing with kidney failure and the terminal diagnosis that accompanied it.  My marriage was beginning to fall apart.  I was also dealing with living with Multiple Sclerosis.  These circumstances made me adapt how I articulated my truth on the canvas.  My muse was the pain because words at times were too painful to vocalize. The brush allowed me to be present in the stroke and acted as a guided meditation.  Each stroke quieted my mind.

Beth: How did you find time?

Christina: At that time I was teaching art to the developmentally disabled.  It was an atmosphere filled with love.  My students took care of me and fed the part of my soul that was so empty.  I would work when I was inspired and also I was great at working on a deadline.  I made working a priority on a regular basis.

Christina Thomas, Untitled, 2017

Beth: Where did you work?

Christina: I painted on flat surfaces, my lap, the floor included.  I was an intern at the Pat Hearn Gallery in Chelsea during my undergrad.  I began working as a medical receptionist in dermatology and the remainder of my career as a cardiology technician.  At this point I was trained to do wound care.  Wound care was my inspiration for the way I sculpted my text on the canvas and using ink to add color.   Packing of the wounds and the different types of dressing allowed a different layer of my work to emerge.

Beth: Did you receive encouragement from your family or friends?

Christina: In the beginning my art was seen by some as a hobby.  It began to become recognized as I had exhibitions and grew more dedicated myself.  Friends always gave me their full support.  My first solo exhibition was filled with friends and family.  All I wanted was my art to have a life outside of my bedroom. 

Christina Thomas, Prayer Box, 2017, featured in Art Above the Sofa, April 28-30, 2017

Beth: Who are the greatest influences on your work?

Christina: God is the greatest influence on my work.  My work would not be possible without his grace. I have almost died from medical complications on more than one occasion.  Each time I made it through I had a new understanding that I had a purpose.  Having recently been gifted a kidney and no more dialysis I have been born again.  My new collection of art and the pieces leading up to it mark a change in my spirit.  Today my art is about gratitude.  
My grandparents are also an influence.  Knowing what they lived through and living in a time when "Back Lives Matters" is chanted in the streets is a strong juxtaposition to where African Americans have come from.  My grandfather was a doorman and my grandmother a maid and the both took pride in their work. They were diligent and responsible in every task.
The artists that moved me the most were Frieda Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Kahlo endured a long medical crisis and I could identify with her.  She embraced her art in such a unique way by drawing on her body cast.  Her art was her narrative.
I am equally in awe of Basquiat and his use of text.  I loved the way he made you read his story.  He drew your attention to it by crossing out letters.  His art reflected his claim of being a King in his crowns.  
Both artists greatly influenced my thinking and me.

Christina Thomas, Prayer Box, featured in Bosom Bodies exhibition, October 2017

Beth: What are the greatest influences on your work?

Christina: The greatest influences on my work are my life experiences.  My illness has made me see life through different glasses.  It is in the healing that the work evolves.  Other influences have been the issues of Black Lives Matter, the Environment, Domestic Abuse and organ donation.  I am influenced by my personal world and the world at large.

Beth: You have discussed art and healing, art and adversity – please tell us more: How does art play a role in your healing process?

Christina: Art is the place where I release feelings freely on canvas.  Painting is a place where my mind can rest.  It is a place where I can laugh and a place where I can cry.   The strokes and colors I choose allow me freedom and, for a moment, the control that I do not have over my body, or the physical, stops.  My focus is confined to 16 x 20 inches and the primary colors. Creating a cohesive or a chaotic quality gives me the power of choice.

Beth: Does it express your sense of healing?

Christina: Art does not always express a sense of healing but willingness.  It can be the beginning of peeling the onion on a larger issue that leads to healing.  The expression of healing is picking up the brush, letting the fear go and creating.  Creating just for you as though no one is looking.  My sense of healing can be felt in the confident strokes, but more so in the times when I use a spoon to apply colors because the MS will not allow me to use a brush. Healing takes time.

Beth: What does “art and adversity” mean to you?  Please tell us about your philosophies.

Christina: I have faced adversity and art was my way out.  Art was a world I could escape to.  I was able to get lost in the colors and the canvas.  Emotion and concentration helped me to find balance between hue and shape. Art was my bridge.  It seemed as though I was always surrounded by adversity.  Art served to get me from point A to B.  It was my constant. As a patient in the hospital I would create in my mind and on home dialysis I would paint during that treatment.  Art has been necessary for my survival and has anchored me to reality.  My paintings tell my story and show the path through my adversity.  The art was God’s gift to me. The art was God’s life preserver.  So far it has worked time and time again.

May Christina Thomas' work and her words be an inspiration to you all - hope, create and share  your love through your art.

To learn more about Christina Thomas' work, please contact her directly at  

You can also view her work in person at the Art Tour International Magazine exhibition, opening on April 28th.  For more information about the exhibition and Christina's work in the exhibition, please contact the curator Viviana Puello through Art Tour International Magazine.

Best wishes for Passover and Easter,

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
Director and owner
New York Arts Exchange, LLC
Twitter: @BethNewYork

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Christina Thomas: Healing Through Art

Christina Thomas,  "Hope" Prayer Box,  2017, featured in the  Bosom Bodies  exhibition, 2017 Spring is finally here!  And w...