Decorating the World with Art: An Interview with Navajo Artist, Antoinette Thompson

“Let’s decorate the world with more art.”

Self-taught Navajo artist Antoinette Thompson does just that. She has enjoyed some success that many traditional taught artists (including this artist/writer) strive for. She has done so by foregoing the traditional Native American imagery for her own Abstract Expressionism, painting what she feels opposed to painting what she sees or what she’s expected to paint. I spoke with Antoinette to learn more about her as both a person and artist.

Could you please tell me a little about yourself? 
Ya’ eh’ tee’. My name is Antoinette Thompson and I am from Lukachuakai, AZ. I am from the Big Water Clan, born for the Blacksheep clan. I have been sketching small items, portraits, and landscapes since I was a kid, picking it up from my father. I have always talked about painting and have always dreamt about painting but never pushed myself to paint. About four years ago I decided to paint a friend (E, which she now owns) as a birthday gift. She really liked it and I have not stopped since. Painting has become my life. In the past couple of years, I have studied other artist and have created my own style, which I like to call Abstract Expression art using acrylic on canvas. I love painting and at the moment when I stand, sit, look at a canvas; I paint what I feel rather than what I see. Using any and all colors that are in arms reach, I have also used many items to paint, from sponges to syringes to pizza pans. Art to me as I always say, can be a confusion of colors or just an undecorated line. It is both havoc and sensational. I believe art was not designed to be understood or describe, just felt. You just feel art when you see art.

When did you know you wanted a career in art?
In the past three years I have done art shows, mainly with an underground organization call Pancakes and Booze and Raw: Natural Born Artist from LA to New York City. With doing these shows and enjoying the excitements my painting brings to people and their homes, I have managed to land in some pretty cool art galleries in Phoenix and Brooklyn. Because of this fortunate events and have the opportunity to brighten people’s homes, I have never wanted anything more than to paint for a living and travel as I painted. Honestly, I could live on other people’s couches and paint while I travel to be apart of the art scene all over the nation and possible the world.

At this point in your career, do you consider yourself an established artist?
The word established seems to be such an institutional word, but I guess you could say I am in a very comfortable state, level with my art where I am appreciated by my local and surrounding supporters. I cannot say that I’m established artist because I feel there is so much about art that I still want to experience, so much I still want to learn. Maybe even take an art class, which I have never done. I am a self-taught artist. Leaning by watching my father sketch, my mother do jeweler work, and studying other artists both present and past. I still feel, as I’m a beginner and still learning in art ways. And that is the best thing about art, it evolves, matures, resets itself for new and old viewers. I just love art on all levels.

 

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What are your influences?
My parents, I should say were my main childhood influences with doodling and sketching. Coming from an artist family; my father being a saddle and buckle maker and my mother doing her own abstract style of jewelry. Thanks mom and dad. As for painting, now that is on a totally different level, world even. Like I have mentioned before, it started out as a gift for E. I just simply want to speak in a way without using words, and what best way to say something without words is by expressing yourself with vibrant colors. I been quoted once or twice by saying “I love art because I get to tell you my thoughts and express myself with colors. If I told you in words they’d be black and white and that is just too boring.” This is what I feel when I paint. Don’t get me wrong of course other artists have been a leader as I developed what I have become. Voka, Kindinsky, Picasso, Banksy, Matisse, Dali’, and Milan, all great abstract influences. Yet, it’s the emotions of my daily life, which helps me create what I paint. Like Van Gogh said, “I dream my painting and I paint my dream” but in my case, “I feel what I paint and I paint what I feel.”

How have your original works evolved into what you create today?
My first painting was more of a still-life kind of deal of E (a friend). She was sitting on a blue towel besides a pool and wearing a bikini. I painted her from a photo off my cell phone. I painted her in such a way that the details of her existence were unimportant but rather her just existing. I focused on her entire being, her life, and what I saw, what she truly is to me, irreplaceable, one of a kind. And that’s what that painting is, one-of-a-kind. The painting came out absolutely prodigious, simple exquisite. I don’t think I have ever felt the same way about my paintings than that of E. But my art has directed more towards creating beauty for people’s homes. Because my emotions are tied into each painting, it is more of an abstract expression, and that is exactly what I call it, Abstract Expression. I take what I feel and express with random amounts of colors on canvas. People feel see then feel what they do and appreciate at their own personal level. I heard my paintings bring warmth and comfort on a dark day.

What challenges have you faced in promoting yourself and your art?
The challenging part of my self-promoting experience was myself. I had a bad habit of comparing myself to other present and past artist, I’d ask myself what do I do, what type of art am I creating, it’s not good enough. I use to put myself down at times and refuse to show my work. I think that was why it took me so long to start painting. Then one day it all changed with that first canvas for E. I then told myself, art shouldn’t be seen, understood or explained. Art should just be felt. Art is in the eye and heart of the viewer.

Where can people view your current work and where have you shown? 
Website: http://www.antoinettethompsonart.com/ (Best place for upcoming shows)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thompson646 (Best place to view current art)
Facebook Art Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/AThompsons-Art (Best place to view current art)
Instagram: ATHOMPSONART (Best place to view current art)
“RAW: Natural Born Artist” in Phoenix at the Monarch Theater and Denver at the City Hall Lounge: http://www.rawartists.org/athompson
“Minx Gallery” Phoenix, April to June 2014: http://www.minxgallery.com/
“E Gallery” May 21st to June 15th, Brooklyn Artistry’s “50 Shades of Spring” in Brooklyn New York, 459 Vanderbilt Avenue.Brooklyn NY 11238: http://egallerybk.com/artists/artists-info/
“Trucha Art lounge” Phoenix, October to December 2013.
“Pancakes and Booze art show” Phoenix (6), New York (1), Los Angeles (1) 2012 to 2014.

In the next 5 years, what do you hope to accomplish with your art?
“Let’s decorate the world with more art.” -A. Thompson
That is my goal, to have something beautiful that I created in every state and possible the world. Then build my studio back at home on the Navajo reservation and paint for the rest of my life in my own home/studio over looking my home town and growing old with my parents and family.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
If creating art is the first idea in your head when you rise and the last idea before you rest then I say, live art, be art, see and feel art, and share your art with a great passion only you know and understand. Do not make art your second option, your backup plan, your “what if” kind of deal. Just make art, enjoy it, and share it. Eventually people will take notice, see your passion, and they too, will learn to appreciate what you are trying to create and share. The process takes time, funds, effort, and tons of failures, but those are just the right ingredients to your own personal happiness. You are what stand in the way of your own success. If you love art then money shouldn’t be the reason to create art. Be humble, be kind, be positive, and listen to others because they are trying to show you, teach you something you do not already know. Be open-minded and accept everything that comes your way with an optimistic attitude. You are you for a reason and don’t give anyone the power to disrespect you. Pray like our grandparents, parents, elders, and ancestor use to.

 

“A beautiful face will lead you into trouble but a beautiful soul will save you from the darkness and make you fly beyond the stars. Thank you E.”

– A. Thompson

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