Choose your dates:

  1. Sunday, March 3, 2024

  2. Monday, March 4, 2024

Artist Check-in: William Paul Thomas

21c Museum checked-in with William Paul Thomas to see how he is feeling, what he is looking forward to working on this year, and what he has learned from this past year.

21c Durham first shared William Paul Thomas’s work in 2019 with his solo show, Disrupting Homogeny, in the Vault Gallery and Museum Shop vitrine. The exhibition investigated how he perceived characteristics between himself and other people; the assumptions we make before we engage with others, and how that changes once you begin speaking with another person. Thomas focused on how the creative process allowed him to revel in expressions of individual and collective Blackness, one person at a time. 21c Museum checked-in with Thomas to see how he is feeling, what he is looking forward to working on this year, and what he has learned from this past year.

This Friday, June 18, William Paul Thomas will be taking over 21c Durham’s Instagram account. Follow along with the artist on @21cdurham and on his personal Instagram @willart4food.

How are you feeling today? This week? This year?

William Paul Thomas (WPT): I feel energized!  I’ve been able to keep my creative practice flowing and I have the support of my loved ones in continuing to do what I love. I have a solo show coming up at Craven Allen Gallery (@craven_allen_gallery) in September, and I’m in the process of creating some new work for that show, so I’m very motivated at the moment.


Barton College, Wilson, NC, “A Good Look” Exhibition, 2021 @bartonartgalleries

Photo credit: Chianti Ghee @eyeyam.him

What are you looking forward to in your art practice?

WPT: I’m looking forward to showing in unique places around the country. This fall my work will be featured in an exhibition at the College of Wooster Art Museum (@wooartmuseum) alongside works by Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, and Chuck Close, to name a few. I’m excited to do more exhibitions in places that have dedicated educational programs so that visitors are encouraged to spend time doing some deep thinking about the significance of the work.


College of Wooster Art Museum Wooster, Ohio, 2021 @wooartmuseum

Photo credit: Brianna Lyman

Installation image of “A Good Look” Exhibition at Barton College, Wilson, NC, 2021 @bartonartgalleries

Photo credit: William Paul Thomas

Rubenstein Arts Center, 2019 #DukeRuby

Photo credit: William Paul Thomas

How can people continue to support artists in their communities?

WPT: Collectors, gallery directors, and art enthusiasts often find new artists from people sharing art that they enjoy with their friends and colleagues. If you like an artist’s work, post and talk about it online, and purchase it, if you love it.

Barton College, Wilson, NC, “A Good Look” Exhibition, 2021 @bartonartgalleries

Photo credit: Allen Thomas, Jr. @allenthomasjr6

Do you have any #protips or things you have learned in the past year that you would like to share with fellow artists?

WPT: I’ve learned to be more proactive when it comes to asking for resources I need to participate in art events. We must always advocate for ourselves and what we need to sustain our careers. Organizations and businesses want to minimize expenses, so if they don’t have a history of paying artists they probably won’t start doing so with you if you don’t ask.

What are you reading or watching or listening to that you would recommend to others?

WPT: I’ve been watching “Exterminate All the Brutes” a miniseries on HBO directed by Raoul Peck.  It’s a vivid account of colonization and genocide through time, all over the world. It’s informative and sobering, to say the least. I recommend it to everyone.

William Paul Thomas in studio, Durham, NC, 2021

William Paul Thomas in studio, Chapel Hill, NC, 2016

Photo credit: William Paul Thomas

Artist Statement:

Most of my creative work is tangled up with the attempt to grant access to anyone on the outside. This gets complicated. Who said they even wanted to come in? I might paint a portrait of a young man who [understandably] has never set foot in the art gallery that sits within a mile of his childhood home. We invite his family to see the portrait. Maybe they’ll continue to visit the gallery after my show is de-installed. Maybe they won’t.

When I talk about my work to viewers, I’ll recount things from other intimate conversations to illustrate how personal exchanges inspire my decision making. I love sharing carefully designed paintings, prints, and digital experiments for public consumption. Whether the images are depictions of anonymous floating heads, headless bodies frozen in time, or cryptic phrases that invite extended inquiry, my efforts are heavily bent towards highlighting the questionable barriers that exist between us and everything else.

Artist Bio:

William Paul Thomas is a visual artist based in Durham, North Carolina.  His work is centered on making images to record his life experiences and observations. For over 10 years he has created intimate painted portraits of everyday people that he chooses as a way of recognizing their significance in his life’s path. In addition to painting and drawing, he also experiments with video and photography to capture idiosyncratic, abstracted depictions of love, joy, and adversity. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently an Adjunct Visual Art Instructor at Guilford College. This fall semester he will teach drawing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

You can learn more about William Paul Thomas’s work on his website: and follow him on Instagram @willart4food