Kim Thomas Interview
Dwayne Butcher: Can you talk a little about your recent MFA thesis exhibition at the Memphis College of Art?
Kim Thomas: My thesis work was based on using recycled plastic bags as, not only the material for my work, but also to convey my personal fears and anxieties about climate change and environmental disaster. For the thesis exhibition, I knew I wanted to show work that was different from crocheting the bags, I had shown that work before in Memphis. I wanted to branch out; and get more specific about what I wanted the work to say.
DB. How did you get into using the plastic bags as a material? And what is the end goal of raising awareness of the negative impact these plastic bags have on the environment.KT: All the bags used are recycled, either from individuals or from bag recycling drop-offs at large stores like Kroger or Walmart. When I first started using the plastic bags, I was mostly just looking for a cheap, abundant material. I was raised to recycle, so the message of environmental impact was there; but it became much more import as the work developed. On a really basic level, I want people to see my work, say, “Wow, that’s a lot of bags!,” and hopefully remember the work next time they shop, and hopefully eliminate or reduce their own use of recycled bags.
I’m the kind of person that reads the news and thinks, “Now there’s no doubt climate change is happening. We’re all f*cked.” Or at least the next few generations are. From the people I’ve told to and the research I’ve done, most people are just too caught up in everyday life to stop and question things like why something that they use for a few minutes is made out of a material that’s basically made to last forever. People are just beginning to question the safety of plastics that were once thought to be inert, like toxic phthalates used in polyvinyl IV bags. I’m not saying plastic shopping bags cause cancer, but plastic bags, and all plastic film, eventually tear apart. They don’t biodegrade. Instead, they become tinier and tinier bits of the same toxic material, which leaches into the soil, ground water and waterways.