May 17 - Ongoing

Opening reception: Saturday, May 17, 2014 from 12:00 - 6:00pm


Random Parts is pleased to announce a project with JESTSONORAMA (Chip Thomas), a street artist living and working in the Navajo Nation, Arizona. Thomas is known for his outdoor photographs:  wheat-pasted or glued to buildings, old barns, and water tanks throughout the world, Thomas’ larger-than-life pictures redefine the aesthetics of urban and rural environments. Physician by day and artist by night, Thomas will create a location-specific artwork  in collaboration/ assistance with Random Parts in the East Lake neighborhood of Oakland, California. His intervention will be installed on a wall facing the Random Parts gallery and will become a permanent public artwork on the corner of 13th Avenue and East 12th St. in Oakland.

When asked about his “conversion” from medicine to art - working as a doctor in a Navajo reservation in the Arizona desert, to creating artworks he called it “natural”. In fact, Thomas’ fascination with the visual can be traced back to his youth. At the age of 12, he attended a Quaker school in North Carolina and became fascinated by black and white photography. He spent many afternoons alone, in the darkroom, playing with light, and learning about the craft of creating images. Influenced by photojournalists like Gordon Parks and Eugene Smith, Thomas’ visual diet included a hefty dose of photographs from illustrated magazine such as LIFE.

After attending medical school, Thomas started working in a small community situated between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley called Inscription House in 1987. He built a darkroom shortly after his arrival on the Navajo Nation. At that point, he decided to pursue photography more seriously. He started taking portraits of the reservation residents. His style was realistic. They were much more than “subjects” - i.e., models and patients - but also friends.

Thomas had always been drawn to graffiti, public art, and old school hip-hop.  He would travel to New York City in the 1980s to study the work of street artists on buildings, subway trains and galleries. For his first intervention on the Navajo Nation, Thomas appropriated and “corrected” a Pepsi Cola billboard. The original copy, “Welcome to Pepsi Country”, became “Welcome to Diabetes Country”. Intrigued by the potential of culture jamming and by the interplay between text and images, Thomas pursued a systematic attack on corporate communication.

In 2009, Thomas spent three month in Brazil, where he met a group of like-minded passionate artists. Thomas recalls that experience as “an epiphany”. He realized that street art had a powerful social and political message that was enriched by aesthetics. Unimpressed by the so-called artworld, Thomas decided to pursue a more immediate, visceral, and democratic form of communication: his firm belief is that art must be visible and accessible at eye-level, in the streets, without any filter or middle-man. Above all, Thomas wanted to share the beauty that the photographed women and men shared with him.

About Chip Thomas:


Chip's blog: