In a prolific career spanning over four decades, Mildred Thompson created paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures using a distinctly unique language of abstraction. Thompson’s paintings and works on paper are characterized by energetic mark-making, a profound understanding of color, and complex compositions that absorb the viewer. She was interested in physics and astronomy and through her own interpretation, sought to visually represent scientific theories and systems that are invisible to the eye. The artist also worked extensively with wood, producing intimate reliefs, two and three-dimensional collages, and elegantly staged outdoor installations of wood assemblages nailed to trees. For Thompson, the material’s texture, shape, and form provided multiple entry points to create metaphorical connections across history and memory, individuality and universality. Thompson’s work has received increasing institutional attention in recent years as understandings of abstraction shift to become more inclusive to women artists of color.
In 2019, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art presented a solo exhibition of her work entitled Mildred Thompson: The Atlanta Years, 1986-2003. In 2018, her Wood Pictures were featured in a solo presentation, Mildred Thompson: Against the Grain, at the New Orleans Museum of Art, as well as in the 10th Berlin Biennale. In 2016, the solo exhibition Mildred Thompson: Resonance, Selected Works from the 1990s was presented at the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia. Thompson’s work was featured in the group exhibition Magnetic Fields: Expanding American
Abstraction, 1960s to Today, which travelled from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, and Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida.
Thompson’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Glenstone, Potomac, Maryland; Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond among other institutions.
Alongside her artistic practice, Thompson also explored creative avenues as a writer, poet, musician, and professor. She served as associate editor of ART PAPERS from 1989 to 1997 and performed with her partner Donna Jackson under the name of WedoBLUES.
Thompson was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1936, and died in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2003. The Mildred Thompson Estate is curated by Melissa Messina.