Susquehanna Heritage is proud to host the work of local Columbia artist Diana Thomas at Columbia Crossing this September. The exhibit, titled Current Color: A Year on the River  chronicles Thomas’s year long journey creating an acrylic painting per week.  “Making art can be a healing experience.  I’ve always known that but not until last year did I know it to the depths I do now.” explains Columbia artist, Diana Thomas.  “After all that happened I still marvel that I was able to paint fifty-two paintings of the lower Susquehanna River, one painting a week for a year.”

Though the paintings are the most visible part of her unique project, ‘Current Color – A Year on the River’, there is more to this presentation.  Thomas decided to keep a weekly journal entry that portrays a strong current of life lessons flowing through her body of work.  She writes of the River’s beauty and peaceful healing presence when her life was touched by tragedy.

Thomas initially began the project in December 2015,  to practice allowing herself the time to create art on a more regular basis than she had been doing.   “I wanted to create a challenge that would stretch me but one that was also realistic enough to complete,” she explained.  “I set up an album for each quarter of the year for all the photos I would take several times a week.  It seemed fitting to keep a written record of the progress, the process of making the art, and any particulars about the river itself.”  She started to work just before Christmas, 2015.

“As the body of work began to grow I had a strong sense that the paintings had a message of some kind and were telling it in a way that a single painting or two could not.  It seemed as if they were becoming something like a visual choir.  By the time I had finished the first quarter I knew the pieces would need to remain together as a group to share their message.”

Three quarters of the way through the project, on September 14th, 2016, Diana’s 41 year old daughter died tragically, losing her long battle with substance overuse.  Less than a month later the same tragedy befell her daughter’s mate of ten years, leaving behind their then 8 year old son.  “I don’t really have any words to express what our family went through in the first weeks and months after that but I felt compelled to try to ‘say’ something to my daughter or for her through painting.  Our daughter was an artist and singer, and I knew she would have wanted me to keep going with the project.  I created a piece called ‘River of Tears’.  I also created a painting in honor of our son-in-law called “Even the Moon Cried.”  Though both pieces are included in the ‘Current Color’ presentation, Thomas at first did not think she would show these two paintings.  “But by then ‘Current Color’ had taken on a life of its own and this sad time needed to be part of the whole”, she said.

In April all the paintings were seen for the first time at a brief showing at Historic Mount Bethel Cemetery in Columbia, PA and the response surprised Thomas.  So many people who love the Susquehanna were telling her their own life stories about places represented by many of the scenes.  She also told how touching it was that many people wanted to see ‘River of Tears’ and say how sorry they were and that they too were familiar with that kind of tragedy.  “Of course I had no way to know what was in store when the year began but I can truly say painting through it was a blessing in disguise.  I pray it will also have a healing effect on others.”

“The Susquehanna River has brought me peace many times through the sad events our family has faced in the recent months. I’m grateful for the experience of observing her and painting her.”

Enjoy this compelling exhibit at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center during September. Exhibit hours are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesdays through Thursdays and 9 am to 6 pm Fridays through Sundays. Handmade greeting cards featuring these beautiful works are also available from the artist with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Susquehanna Heritage.