Thomas James is an independent curator, working primarily here in Maryland and Washington DC. I first met Thomas in 2018 at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, where he was the Visual Arts Curator. In 2019 I interviewed him for the Ask an Arts Professional series about his position in the Arts and how he has navigated that role. Since then, he has been involved in projects from the East Coast to West and continues his pursuit of championing artists interested in storytelling. I recently asked Thomas to share with readers three artists that we should be watching. Below are his picks and thoughts on those rising artists.

Bria Sterling Wilson, Hooper House Gallery, Home (Handle With Care) solo exhibition, photographer: Vivian Marie Doering

Bria Sterling Wilson 

Sterling-Wilson’s practice of collage making creates luminous images that can abstractly feed each of our sensory receptors. By combining elements such as expensive glassware with tender fruit, and the occasional sexually-charged image, she is able to tap into different facets of human desire.

The intricate cutting and placement techniques she utilizes allows for her to arrange bits of images next to one another in such a way that makes it incredibly difficult for the untrained eye to determine which piece(s) of the collage elements are original versus what she has created herself. Through this practice, she effectively exposes our human tendencies to definitively assume that we know what is present in a given setting.

Hooper House Gallery, Home (Handle With Care) solo exhibition, photographer: Vivian Marie Doering
Joan Poncella, 2022, Collage, 20×30

Asha Elana Casey

Casey’s work celebrates knowledge and self-discovery. The mixed media components in her work, such as the mounds of glitter and rhinestones that are visible in almost every piece, provide dazzling aesthetic beauties throughout her entire practice. 

 Chattam boy on horse, Acrylic Paint, Attached Paper, and Oil pastel on Digital Print 24×6, 2022

Her subjects exude confidence with their commanding presence. Many of her pieces include dreamlike landscape backgrounds with tropical leaves and Africana figures placed within the figure’s shape. These components provide a remembrance of histories and energies that bring people closer to what she calls our “God selves.”

Asha, Eleggua, and Ori, 36×48, Acrylic, Rhinestones, Glass Mosaic Tiles, Glitter, Pearl Mica on Wood Panel , 2021

Jabari Jefferson

Jefferson’s mixed media practice pushes the genre of portrait painting. As he portrays the “process of [what] learning looks like”, he is physically showcasing objects used to distribute knowledge – books, textiles, paper, etc. Upon examination, this sort of work truly leaves viewers with more questions than answers. Combined with his new emphasis on the landscapes in the background of each piece, his work takes a peek into the future of painting.

* Jabari’s work is also featured as the banner image at the top of the page

Through Time & Space
61×41, color pencil, water color , acrylic , paper, collage fabric, mixed media on paper, 2021
Heroes of a Never Ending Odyssey
80×72, Oil, acrylic , fabric, mixed media, paper collage , aluminum on canvas, 2021

Thomas James:

Thomas F James (b. 1994) is a Washington, DC born, Prince George’s County, MD raised curator currently based in Baltimore, MD. The focal aspect of his work is to communicate ideas through exhibitions focusing on storytelling. By approaching his curatorial practice as a narrator, he is able to emphasize the cultural backgrounds and nuances within artists’ works. This is done in the hopes to provide viewers with more context and a wholistic scope of what artists are presenting. He finds storytelling imperative to communicating grander concepts that create approachable, intellectual conversations.

Over the span of 2018-2022 Thomas ran 2 galleries in Baltimore, MD – Creative Alliance and Eubie Blake Cultural Center – as well as continuing his curatorial practice and serving on different boards and projects for the different sectors of the arts ecosystem. 

Inertia Studio Visits