12 Questions with 2019 MFA Graduate Jody Thompson


1. Can you tell me a little bit about you?

Ok, so ill keep this one kind of simple. I am originally from southwest Louisiana and spent 20 years on the east coast in NYC and New Jersey before moving to Fayetteville for Grad School. I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for over 10 years. My cat is named Willow.

2. What first inspired you to begin making art?

In 1980, I watched the movie Xanadu for the first time. It is one of those movies that is so bad, that it circles back around to being good. It was a musical about an artist who falls in love with one of the nine greek muses of mythology. The music is, literally, big bands of the 40s meets roller disco and hard rock. I have a tendency to find a movie and watch it hundreds of times. I would go back and forth between wanting to be Sonny, the artist, and Kira, the muse. It was about this time that I started watching bob Ross every Saturday morning. I asked my mama to get me an oil painting set. I would sit and watch one of his episodes, and then, after it was over, run back into my room and duplicate what I had seen him do. Eventually, she wanted to put new carpet in my room because mine was covered in paint. She made a deal with me that if I wouldn’t paint in there anymore, she would enroll me in oil painting classes.

3. What is your studio like?

Opposite of my home. Where my home is organized, neat, and always clean, my studio is not. My friends in nyc used to call my studio the Seven room, after the movie “Seven”. Its always been a little scary. Not so much anymore. I need to be able to glance around and see a full spectrum of the definition of “beautiful”. I also tend to leave brushes and pallets and anything that I am working on where it is when I leave the studio. When I am getting ready to go into the studio, showering, putting on my clothes and such, I am mentally already in the studio. Thinking. I am seeing what the game plan is for the day. By the time I drive to the studio and walk in the door, there is no sitting and getting ready. I just walk in, put my bag down, and pick up a brush.

4. Do you listen to music when you’re painting? What are some artists you’re currently listening to?

What I listen to in the studio depends on what I am doing in the studio. If the painting needs predictable, repetitive marks that don’t require a lot of decision making, I like cheesy, pop music or audio books that have to do with fantasy. If what I am working on has to do with layers of materials or more formal interactions on the surface, I listen to classical, any metal music that has layering, movie soundtracks (interstellar, 2049, arrival, etc.). when working with gestural mark or active movement on the surface, faster, more chaotic music is required. And when all else fails, Tori Amos always saves the day.


5. Can you talk a little about your process?

Questions 2, 3, & 4 are definitely part of my process. However, I do not begin to paint what I am thinking about. I think; I read; I research; but when I walk into the studio, as Ive said before, I do have a plan or an idea of what direction I want to go. However, I do try to keep an open mind and try not to limit my decision making process to much to specifics. For instance, if working on realism, painting skin, I know that I am going to using flesh tones, but I wait until I am looking through tubes of paint to decide what hues I want to use. When focusing on materiality in a painting, I may know that I am wanting to use resin to achieve a veiling effect. I wait until I am digging through different materials to mix with the resin before I decide what to use. When working in a geometric, abstract way, I may know that I am looking to create gradients of tone and value. I look at the texture of the surface before deciding what material to use.

I usually have 4 or 5 paintings going at a time, so that when I get to a stopping point on one, or just need to not look at it for a while, I can move on to another one to keep the momentum of making going.

6. What ideas are you exploring in your work?

I am exploring the process of memory and the mutability of perception. I have third person memories from my childhood that makes me question what is real. I view memory as a combination of abstraction and realism. Sort of how dreams morph and change through the process of experiencing them. I am exploring what it means to be a white, gay man in America and how that experience has been influenced by the hegemonic, patriarchal, white society that I fit so easily into. Im exploring the influence evangelical christianity has had on masculinity. I am exploring camouflage, how we perceive something can be manipulated without having to change the truth, the literal structure of it.

7. Who/What are influences for your work?

Make-up tutorials on youtube; Caravaggio; music that moves back and forth and is layered; when I form an opinion about something that I am 100% sure of and then find out I was wrong; ancient technology theories; monkey bars; shooting stars; friction; seismic images; archaeology; certain hashtags on instagram; severe weather, meditation

8. How do you overcome ‘failure’?

Because the surface of a painting is very important in establish the history of what the painting, the actual object, went through to be its final self, failure equals process for me. There is not a point where I stand back from a painting and think, “wow, that painting is a failure” and then throw the canvas away. Even if I paint over it completely, the textures that it brings to subsequent layers end up being necessary. Also, there have been paintings, the stretched canvas or object itself, that I finally just stopped painting over. I have put them in storage only to find them 10 or 20 years later. That much time away has given me the space to grow and change as a person. This emotional distance inevitably has allowed me to either solve the problems or paint over it and use the textures.

9. How do you seek out opportunities?

Opportunities as far as showing/selling work, have come from networking and building relationships with other artists and professionals WITHOUT the specific intention to show/sell work. While I do apply for shows, it is the personal relationships with other likeminded people that place me exactly where I am supposed to be.

10. If you could go back in time and give yourself advice as an incoming 1st year grad, what advice would you give?

They are not going to change their minds and tell you that they don’t want you here. They are not going to kick you out for making too many paintings. When you don’t know what you are doing, make more things to look at. Keep taking notes WHILE YOU ARE MAKING!!!! Your own words will tell you what you are thinking

11. What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?

My thesis show was one of the most accomplished moments of my career so far. The freedom and time to devote all of my resources for 1 year to building a huge, amazing body of work was something that I had only dreamed of being able to do. Selling work is always wonderful, but deciding, at 44 years old to go back to grad school, and finish that 3 years with flying colors…. That’s freaking amazing.

12. What are you working on now?

My thesis left off with seeing how trompe l’oiel realism could be in conversation with geometric abstraction. I am pushing that notion to begin to use figurative painting with many different types of abstract methods. Questions 4 - 8 are ongoing.