Artist Terry Thompson discusses exhibit

By KAYLEE ZOU | October 17, 2019

Terry Thompson’s exhibition Bianco e Nero premiered at the Y:ART Gallery in Highlandtown’s Art District on Sept. 14. On Saturday, Oct. 12, Thompson presented his personal story, talked about the works on display at his exhibition and discussed the overall trajectory of his career as an artist. 

Bianco e Nero is a collection of primarily monochromatic works in black and white. As Thompson himself described, the black versus white dichotomy in his works gives opportunity for things to be seen in day and night. 

Most of the pieces are large in size, up to eight feet by 11 feet, and they all have an ethereal and fluid quality to them. The works play with the concept of space versus time and Thompson explained that his pieces are caught in between universes.

When asked how Thompson was able to physically create these artistic pieces, he replied simply, “Through a lot of trial and error.” 

Thompson then started to explain his artistic influences, listing off artists and artworks that have inspired him through the years to the audience present at the Artist Talk. Notably, Thompson mentioned Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Diego Velazquez and Michelangelo among the slew of artists he cited as his artistic influences. 

What I particularly loved about this event was Thompson’s personable character and the intimate feel of the Artist Talk. Thompson explained his entire journey in art, starting from his youth. According to Thompson, he first began drawing at five years old. His original incentive towards creating art was precious; he was determined to win the magazine art contests that promised up to $5000 worth of toys for winning submissions. 

Growing up in Chicago, Thompson went to a high school in which all students participated in art in some way, shape or form. He and his friends “tried to do everything [they] saw” when it came to making art. Any album covers, magazine images and movie posters that Thompson encountered, he emulated in his art. However, outside of his high school experience, Thompson did not get any type of formal training in art, so in many ways he is self-taught. 

When Thompson first moved to Baltimore and was living in a loft downtown, his first concern was how to decorate his new living space. That’s when he started to create artworks specifically to be part of his home décor. Then, Thompson’s friends started to ask to buy his pieces and that’s when it clicked for him — that he could really make a career out of his affinity for art. He suddenly realized that people were willing to pay for his artworks. 

Baltimore is extremely significant to Thompson as an artist, and he likened the city’s neighborhood culture to that of Europe. 

Having lived in Baltimore now for over thirty years, Thompson said that the city helped foster the growth and maturation of his art. Thompson’s son, a sophomore psychology major and basketball player, was in attendance at this event, supporting his father.

Primarily starting off as a realist painter, Thompson encoutered abstract art after his schooling. Abstract art is now extremely important to Thompson as he believes “the abstract is more complex, because you go inside yourself to pull out the art.” Thompson spoke about finding inspiration from eclectic sources constantly. He commented that he “probably is overexposed to fantasy movies,” which feeds into why Bianco e Nero has such a cosmic, planetary feel. An intriguing aspect of Bianco e Nero is how you are able to see parts of the female form here and there disjointedly but not all of the female form at any one point. 

Julia Yensho, the proprietor of the Y:ART Gallery, made several comments throughout Thompson’s presentation, pointing out that Bianco e Nero elicits happiness in a rivetingly smooth way, which I feel is an extremely accurate description of Thompson’s works. Thompson himself discussed his determination to not create works that came out too “cold” and how he allowed himself to add pops of color when necessary. 

Thompson described his overall process to be fluid and ever-changing and said that he does not have premeditated control over what he ends up producing. At one point he pulled out a blank sheet of sketch paper and demonstrated how he created art. 

With quick flicks of the wrist, Thompson rapidly created an abstract sketch while narrating how he lets the piece come together full-circle without fully knowing beforehand where his mind wants to go with it. 

Once again, what I particularly liked about Thompson’s Artist Talk was how intimate and personal the event was. At one point, Thompson pulled out three personal sketchbooks out of a backpack for attendees of the event to pass around and peruse, giving everyone an opportunity to see his planning process up close. Flipping through the very sketchbooks in which Thompson first began drafting Bianco e Nero and seeing the larger-than-life manifestations out of those initial sketches was an engaging experience.  

My greatest takeaway from attending this Artist Talk and meeting Thompson was the realization that art is a constant pursuit and involves developing a keen eye for inspiration. That inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere. 

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