Introducing Buckham Gallery’s 2nd Writer In Residence: Natasha Thomas

FLINT, Michigan — Earlier this month, Buckham Gallery announced longtime Flint native, “writer, performance artist, political organizer, community strategist, and visual curator” Natasha Thomas as its second Buckham Fine Arts Project Writer In Residence, following Shea Cobb

Thomas is known for her exceptional work through the organization RAISE IT UP! Youth Arts & Awareness. In a statement provided by Buckham’s Executive Director, Michele Leclaire says, “we are delighted to have this opportunity to collaborate with Natasha and promote her literary arts.”

The work during her residency will focus on responding to various exhibitions present at Buckham and creating writings that will see her respond to a variety of topics and personal experiences.

Flintside caught up with Thomas inside Buckham Gallery during their Entropy Exhibition featuring the works of Jennifer Bock-Nelson, Kelly A. Mueller, and Amy Sacksteder. During our discussion, she spoke on the theme of the exhibit, her own life narrative, and gave incredible insight into art and intersectionalities.
Left to right: Artist Amy Sacksteder, Buckham Fine Arts Project 2nd Writer In Residence Natasha Thomas, Artist Jennifer Bock-Nelson, Buckham Executive Director Michele LeclaireFlintside: Congratulations on becoming the newest Buckham Fine Arts Project Writer In Residence! Do you feel any pressure being the second Writer In Residence?

Natasha Thomas: “I don’t. I feel like my work has always been about my voice and authenticity. After going through the heart chakra and shadow work, that’s where the pressure is off. If I’m expressing how I see something, I’ve already done my job. For us as artists and [Black] people, if invited to a space, it’s because you’re supposed to be there. It might make some people uncomfortable, but the pressure for me is more internal. The pressure to be more vulnerable. Can I reveal another part of myself that’s not easy, but it creates freedom for me, another level of artistry, and a deeper connection with somebody?”

Flintside: A few years have passed since you were in Flint’s public eye. So what’s happened in these last few years?

Natasha Thomas: “It’s been these circles of transitions. I was married. I was running Raise It Up! Then I moved to a different job and did political organizing with a national organization called NextGen. At that time, my younger brother was killed, and then COVID. I went into a deep hermit mode, and I had a lot of healing to do. [Writer In Residence] is one of the more public things I’ve been doing. I started feeling this pull to take care of my creative self, and this is an opportunity. Now it’s like this rebirth which is interesting because this exhibit is entropy.”

Flintside: The theme of this exhibition here at Buckham Gallery is titled, Entropy, with the works of Jennifer Bock-Nelson, Kelly A. Mueller, and Amy Sacksteder. As you look around at the work on display, what are your thoughts?  

Natasha Thomas: “The whole idea of entropy is things break down, go from order to chaos, and this feels lighter and more hopeful to me. Things like disorder, chaos, or death, for me, that’s what happens when something new happens. I think that’s because of all the things I’ve [experienced]. I went through some serious mental health stuff that was not easy but was necessary. All the transitions we go through are like little deaths and a chance to be reborn. I feel there’s a beauty in the breakdown. What does it look like when I come out of it and appreciate it while you’re there. You can flow with it, or you can fight it.”

"I’m approaching this theme from an ancestral resilience that comes from my experience as a Black woman. We know how to survive." - Natasha Thomas
Flintside: I find myself enthralled in Kelly’s work. She utilizes astrological and biblical concepts in her art. With you engaged in healing, astrology, and spirituality, how important is that in your art and viewpoints?

Natasha Thomas: “A lot of my work is inspired by my spirituality like astrology, mythology, and symbols. I think different artists are going to have different intentions. I know for me when I create, there’s a couple of different intentions, and the first one is to express. I know everybody is not going to resonate with every [piece of] art. I don’t have to like or agree with your art, but I will always appreciate your voice. The truer you are to your voice, the people that you’re supposed to find, find you. It’s about connecting with those people, and you can’t do that if you aren’t authentic.”
  
Flintside: Adding the perspective of race to this exhibit, how do you define entropy through the eyes of a being Black?

Natasha Thomas: “When we’re talking about entropy, I feel as a Black person, my reaction is different. I think I have a more mentality of like 'we gon’ survive because we do.' We’ve survived slavery, mutilation, and families being torn apart. I’m approaching this theme from an ancestral resilience that comes from my experience as a Black woman. We know how to survive. I don’t want this to be a situation where I’m the BIPOC Writer In Resident, and that’s the extent to which the conversation goes. I want to explore how race plays into these I’m looking at and how I perceive them.”

Flintside: Now, looking through the lens of being a woman and a mother, what insight and camaraderie does this give you with these three women?

Natasha Thomas: “I can relate as a woman and a mother. I have kids who’re gonna be in this world when I’m not. As [a] mother, I think a lot of this work is about the environment. There’s a connection between women and the earth. For me, masculine and feminine are not gendered and available to all of us. This is art, but this is also social justice and identity work and us questioning assumptions. I think that’s another important thing as we talk about race, all these other intersecting identities. All those identities are important, and we should be able to bring all of you.”  

Flintside: Although your residency just began, what words do you have for your eventual successor and how do you want this to evolve?

Natasha Thomas: “First, I want them to feel like they have my support. If they have questions throughout, I’m a resource and support for them. Second, I’m hoping this can expand and give the writer some more resources to have events. And in the event, they feel like they need to push the envelope and the gallery that they can do that.”

For more information on Buckham Gallery, visit their website.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.