Oral History: ISAAC THOMAS
Artist: PaulA Neves
Title: Accounts, 2015, glass, linen and packaging tape, 1”x 7”x 17”

Accounts can mean either numbers or narratives. “Accounts” is concerned with the latter, by way of the former. One of Alabama-to-Detroit-to-Newark transplant Isaac Thomas Jr.’s first jobs in the Brick City was working at a department store on Springfield Ave. Thomas observed that the store, like others then (like most banks now), “encouraged credit,” especially “to the customers, the African-Americans, because that meant that they put $1.00, a $1.00 a week and if an item cost you $15.00 which was a lot of money at that time even $20.00 and you continue paying on that $1.00 down it tripled by the time you finished paying.” “Accounts” speaks both to the inherently exploitative nature of “credit,” and to the notion that people’s lives cannot be simply reduced to numbers. The simplicity of the glass framed collage questions uncomplicated nostalgia for a “better” time, and the blank pages in the glass book ledger, green or black lined or blank, invite you to recover those life stories.

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