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Thomas is perhaps best known for his sculptures of human skulls.
Thomas is perhaps best known for his sculptures of human skulls. These haunting images sat on the mantle above the fireplace of his friend Shelby "Poppa Jazz" Brown in whose home Thomas played blues on weekends. He carefully explained how he created his skulls:
“I make a face first, then make me a skull. First I shape it up like a regular man's head. Then I cut it down to a skeleton head. That’s the onliest way you can get a shape. . . . I take both thumbs at the same time and squeeze it in to make the eyes. . . . Your eyes are on a level with your ears. They can't be a bit higher than your ears and they can't be no lower They got to be the same level your ears is and that's why you don't have no trouble making glasses. . . . So I go back to where I done mashed up there with the eyes, and that's automatic the nose.”
Ugliness and death are central to the meaning of Thomas's skulls. He felt that the skulls reminded the viewer of his or her own mortality and made the person reflect more deeply about life:
“A skull has got to be ugly because it's nothing but bones and teeth. People are more likely to be interested in something like that than they would be in a bird. They'd rather see a skull. Then too, a lot of people have never seen a real skull and they're probably wondering how it will be when they die. They say, ‘Will I be in the same shape that skull there is in?’”
From an interview by William R. Ferris.