Artwork by Michelle Thomas

“The Sun Babes: Helene”
Watercolor and ink
Collection of Alec Swink
“Translations: Zipporah”
Watercolor and ink
Private collection
“The Sun Babes: Aelius”
Watercolor and ink
Courtesy of the artist
“Sin Miedo No. 2” 
Collection of Jacob and Nirmala Thomas

Michelle Sindha Thomas is a California-based writer and artist whose award-winning work contributes to international collections. She grew up in Chicago’s Riverview neighborhood and studied literature, drawing, painting, design, and art history, graduating with a BFA in Studio Art and Art Education. While teaching high school Visual Arts and English, she received her MLA from Washington University in St Louis, completed with interdisciplinary analyses of art, film, and literature—culminating in a publication entitled And Others: Pursuit of Individuality in Minority Creative Expression 1984-Present. She works in a variety of media and essays themes of memory, place, and identity.

Artist’s statement

My mother missed her people and her place and so decided to travel during her pregnancy, to leave the US and give birth in India. When I was exactly 30 days old, we flew thousands of miles away from the tropics to a bright, cold, Chicago spring.

The immigrant’s nature moves him. My parents were not of immigrant nature, yet, by chance, by circumstance they landed in the US. Once they landed, it’s true, they became movers, shakers, corporate gypsies, but only because they were searching for a fit; they were like puppies, circling, circling, circling, trying to find a comfortable spot in the world for our family. I am not of immigrant nature, though I also keep shifting restlessly. The immigrant seeks opportunity; I look for something that feels like home, a place of heat and a place of cold, I look for people who understand, search for foods that taste like an Indian-Chicagoan childhood, glazed strawberries and marzipan tart, a neighborhood enveloped in the scent of Brach’s butterscotch by night. This is why restlessness remains my constant and why I seek to delineate that place, to have what the children of immigrants never really have, a place called HOME.  

There exists a place maybe I should call home. At the extremity of a continent, on the tip of a peninsula, there, where I was born, where my parents were born, my grandparents, and their parents were born—Kerala, an enclave of coconut palms and sassy wisecrackers and humble heroes. When we visit, I feel nearly whole; we drink the water the dinosaurs and our great-great-great-great grandparents drank.

The grass is always greener on the other side. I keep forgetting.

I feel most at home in airports. The world is a big house, and the countries are rooms, and we can always go back. And forth.

My watercolor collections represent a sense of place, addressing themes of an identity between cultures in which imagery from childhood, portraits of the melancholic and the joyous and the fearless, cityscapes and earthy vignettes fuse to express my existence and craving for home. Art creates meaning where none previously existed.

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