How This Artist Transforms Wood into Sculptures of Softness and Silent Rebellion

Paige Simianer | March 21, 2024

The image features Autumn T. Thomas engaged in the process of creating or assembling a wood-based art installation on a white wall. The artwork is three-dimensional, with parts of it being held together by blue clamps, suggesting it may still be under construction. Various shades and tones of the wooden pieces contribute to a dynamic and textured composition, and the shadows cast on the wall enhance the three-dimensionality of the work.  The scene is overlaid with text that reads "Artist Spotlight Autumn T. Thomas." The White Artwork Archive logo is pictured directly above the text

"My work is about the shifting of structure."

Artwork Archive's Featured artist Autumn T. Thomas creates wood sculptures that challenge the boundaries of visual literacy. By carving hundreds of cuts into wood, she transforms this solid material into something that seems almost alive—soft, twisting forms that represent the resilience and strength needed for women of color to navigate a world filled with oppression and marginalization. 

Autumn's sculptures stand as quiet acts of rebellion. "Each cut is representative of having been ‘cut-down’ by - or negatively affected by bias: racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism," the artist says, underscoring the depth and resilience woven into her work. Each sculpture tells a story of overcoming, of bending without breaking under the weight of prejudice and bias. 

Backed by organizations like the Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator and the National Performance Network, Autumn's art resonates far beyond her studio. In her words, "My studio practice reflects my approach to life: to cultivate meaning with a combination of structure and fluidity, and to glean from each process all the leftover bits that get misunderstood and tossed aside." 

Autumn T. Thomas's work invites us to see beyond the surface, engage in deeper conversations, and appreciate the beauty and complexity of fighting for a better world. 

Artwork Archive had the chance to chat with Autumn Thomas about the meaning behind her work, what impact she hopes it will have on the world, and how Artwork Archive makes her art career more manageable! 

You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about her art practice below:

The image showcases a wood sculpture titled "In the Melody of Its Own Becoming" by Autumn T. Thomas. The sculpture features a series of undulating wooden forms that create a sense of rhythm and movement along the wall. The wooden pieces are light in color and seem to ripple outward from a central point, with some elements extending further out than others, giving the artwork a dynamic and organic feel. On the left side, a darker piece of wood with a smooth, curved surface contrasts with the lighter tones and textures. The sculpture measures 54 x 115 x 23 inches

Autumn T. Thomas, 'In the Melody of Its Own Becoming', 54 x 115 x 23 in

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process? If so, can you share a bit about it?

My favorite part of my process is figuring out the process.

I love the idea of making something new that I have never made before—figuring out how to put it together, how to make it sturdy yet beautiful, and how the materials communicate with one another.

I love learning the language of a new material and finding new and interesting ways to combine them with wood. My process is a love song and it's new with every piece.


Could you expand on how the process of transforming rigid wood into soft, twisting forms parallels your experiences as a woman of color in society?

My work parallels my experience in many ways, but there's one aspect that's very important for me to talk about.

Generally, when people see my work, they look for a few moments and move on, without noticing the intricate details. Many often mistake the translucent cuts in the wood as black paint stripes, while others will comment on how beautifully the wood is painted—if they comment at all. 

The people who get the most out of my work are those who look closely enough to notice the transparency and grain of the wood and allow themselves to wonder. Asking a simple question about the work can reveal a whole world within it, yet most people don’t have the patience to look and ask.

That is my experience as a Black woman.

People take a quick glance, assume they have all the information they need, and move on. But, if they were to take the time to allow us—Black women—to be whole and complex, the world would open up about us as well. 

The image displays a wood-based sculpture titled "Forest For the Trees" by artist Autumn T. Thomas. The sculpture consists of numerous tall, slender wooden elements arranged vertically and resembling tree trunks or a stylized forest. Each wooden element is marked with regular horizontal cuts. They appear to be hanging from a horizontal piece of wood at the top, but secured in their base at the same time. At the base, there are scattered wooden pieces or debris, evoking fallen leaves or the natural forest floor. The sculpture's measurements are noted as 52 x 48 x 9 inches

Autumn T. Thomas, 'Forest For the Trees', 52 x 48 x 9 in

Your pieces convey a sense of grace and fluidity; how do you decide when a piece is complete and has achieved this balance?

I'm not sure how to say when a piece is complete, other than it feels whole.

With each piece, I aim to convey a feeling or emotion, or am trying to heal a conflict I am experiencing. When I'm making art, I'm using nonverbal language and communicating with the work. When the "sentence" or "essay" of the piece feels complete, so does the work.

It's different with every piece; I can feel in my body when the work is going in the wrong direction or when I’ve gone too far. Sometimes, I'll pause work on a piece for a while, while other times I can’t do anything else until a piece is complete.

That's a long way of saying I don’t know how I know. I think of myself as a conduit for the soul of the work—the asé—and it lets me know when it is complete.


What impact do you hope your work will have on those who view it?

I hope that people will be reminded that, just as my wood sculptures create a sense of wonder and exist in unexpected forms, the same is true for their creator and those who look like me. I hope that people will take that sense of wonder and apply the same idea to people.

As a Black, queer woman, I have experienced a lack of confidence in my abilities from others and have been subjected to low expectations from people in leadership positions—whether they were aware of it or not.

I hope my work serves as a constant reminder to my viewers to always look for the details—the quiet shimmer they may have missed—and to find the wonder that appears once you truly take the time to see it.

he image shows an art gallery setting with a prominent wood sculpture titled "We Would Rather Move Through Our Lives like the Flow of Water" by Autumn T. Thomas. The sculpture consists of parallel wooden slats arranged on a wall, with alternating slats protruding at varying depths to create a wavy, fluid pattern reminiscent of flowing water. The natural wood tones contrast with the white wall. To the right of the sculpture, a series of framed artworks are displayed in a row. The sculpture measures 23 x 35 x 4 inches

Autumn T. Thomas, 'We Would Rather Move Through Our Lives like the Flow of Water', 23 x 35 x 4 in

What are you listening to lately? While you’re in the studio, do you have any go-to playlists or podcasts that you like to listen to? 

Most often, I listen to a podcast called 'Release Yourself' by DJ/producer Roger Sanchez, which features a lot of dance and house music that gets me in a good mood.

I like music with a good beat that helps influence my flow state. I also listen to other podcasts, including 'LeVar Burton Reads' (my favorite), 'Hidden Brain', 'Huberman Lab', 'What Now' with Trevor Noah, 'Wood Talk'...the list goes on. 

What I listen to greatly influences my creative space, and it varies based on what I'm working on throughout the day. If I'm doing something that requires a lot of planning and design, I'll listen to house music. But, if I'm sanding or finishing, then I can listen to almost anything. For me, the design and planning process is the most precious, and I'm protective of that atmosphere. 


How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?

I decided to use Artwork Archive because it allows me to catalog all the information I need in one place. 

I use Artwork Archive in a lot of ways. I refer to it when I'm applying for opportunities, to document application acceptance and rejections, exhibition records, as well as client sales. Additionally, I use it to create Private Rooms and submission collections.

I appreciate being able to keep track of all that information in one place— it makes my life so much easier. 

The image is a digital advertisement banner featuring a call to action. It invites viewers to "Get the complete guide to the top public art calls, residencies, artist grants, and more in 2024." A graphic of a hand holding a pencil poised above a notepad, accompanied by abstract shapes. The background is a vibrant orange, and the text is arranged to be easily readable, with the website "" mentioned as the source for the guide. A button with the text "Get the Guide" is prominently displayed, indicating where viewers can click to obtain the information.


What advice would you give an artist who’s just starting out in their professional career?

Giving advice to other artists is tough because everyone’s journey is different.

People have different expectations and needs from their art, and only the artist can determine what those are. The best advice I can offer is that it's important to make work that you feel driven to make—not what others suggest.

It's even more important to stay curious, humble, and above all, patient. Patience—with your work, your career, and yourself—keeps urgency out of the work and keeps it honest.

I believe in integrity above all else and that means being honest with myself about what I'm really working toward. The rest will come.


The image shows a contemporary art gallery with various artworks on display. The focus is on a striking hanging sculpture titled "Eccentricity" by Autumn T. Thomas, which features concentric wooden rings suspended in the air. The rings have a reddish finish that gives them a rich, warm hue. The piece is dimensionally listed as 36 x 36 x 36 inches. The sculpture casts an interesting shadow on the polished gallery floor. Around the sculpture, the walls are adorned with a diverse array of art pieces in different styles and mediums.

Autumn T. Thomas, 'Eccentricity', 36 x 36 x 36 in

Autumn T. Thomas uses Artwork Archive to track exhibitions, organize her artwork, create Private Rooms to send to her clients, and a whole lot more.

You can make an online portfoliocatalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reportstear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

Purple graphic with screenshots of Artwork Archive's system. White text reads: Artwork Archive: An online portfolio + business management platform for artists. Get the all-in-one platform artists use to manage their artwork and career. Green button that says Try it Free leads to Artwork Archive's main sign up page.

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