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AIF crew 2024

Erica Meryl Thomas

Portland, OR

Erica Meryl Thomas is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and labor organizer. Her work explores the ways we relate our personal histories to social, political, and natural histories. She uses the art making process to illuminate and celebrate visible and invisible labor, and visit with the darker sides of place. Her work is collaborative, site specific and often participatory, demanding flexibility of form: installations, printmaking, artist books, storytelling and dialogue, and other experiential forms among them. 

Her recent practice has centered on the human relationship with wildfire and smoke, utilizing foraged charcoal from wildfire burn sites to produce handmade ink and printing images to tell stories of the landscapes. In 2023, she co-curated and was a participating artist in a group exhibition, Obscurity: life inside the smoke, (World Forestry Center in Portland, OR). Her printmaking and installation presented stories and images of  incarcerated wildland firefighters printed with her foraged charcoal ink. The installation invited visitors to send messages to the incarcerated wildland firefighters, and concluded with a show in a minimum security prison where some of the firefighters are based.. 


In 2014 she received an MFA in Art and Social Practice from Portland State University where she is now a faculty member teaching interdisciplinary courses on art, design and social theory.  She is the Co-Chair and Chair of Political Action for Portland State University’s adjunct faculty labor union (PSUFA-AFT local 3571), and uses her voice to create art and action in solidarity with interconnected political, social and environmental movements. 

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TREX involvement

More on her story in Fall 2024...

but for now, Erica is looking forward to the physical experience of being near and working with fire, and all of the sensory elements (smell, touch, sounds, etc.) that go along with the work. She loves a physical challenge and prefers to learn through doing, so she is excited for the opportunity to be among a crew working together as a means of experiential research.

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