Catching up with Sarah Thompson

So much has happened since last year, and I’m very proud of how far I’ve come.  One of the pieces pictured in last year’s interview won “Best in Show” at the ODU 2022 Student Juried Exhibition; the award granted me a solo show at the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in Norfolk, VA.  I was also awarded a Windgate University Fellowship at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. The Fellowship provided room, board, and tuition for a summer workshop. I chose to take a mechanical sculpture class.  It seems the more technology advances, the more magical simple machines become. The mechanical sculptures I crafted at Arrowmont were recently accepted into the Fibers of Nature exhibition at Floyd Center for the Arts in Floyd, VA. They will be on display until April 1st.   

Last summer was incredibly busy.  I didn’t give myself much of a break from classes and instead took a Maymester Art History course and a summer printmaking tutorial course. I used the tutorial course to prepare for my solo show at the Chrysler Museum.  On top of the craft school Fellowship at Arrowmont, I attended a two-week paper molding workshop at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina.  By the time Fall Semester came around, my creative energy was drained.  I had to take an incomplete in my Sculpture Studio course and owe my professor two sculptures, which are still in various stages of completion.  I’m an all-or-nothing sort of person.  I give everything I have until I have nothing left to give, then I sit and stare at mindless entertainment until I’m recharged. I have no idea how I did it all, but I certainly couldn’t have done it without the full support of my husband, Tim. He’s amazing.  

 Recently, I’ve been branching out beyond the university campus in preparation for life as a full-time studio artist.  The best resource I’ve come to rely on is the website  I use it to apply for exhibitions, grants, and artist residencies.  My portfolio is loaded into it with every detail: measurements, prices, descriptions of my work, and even my artist statement.  So far, my work has been accepted into three different exhibitions. I’ve also applied for two residencies in the fall- one at Shenandoah National Park and the other with the Peter Bullough Foundation in Winchester, VA.   I’m on pins and needles until I find out if I’ve been accepted into one, none, or both.  Just in case, I have a backup plan!

I’ve been developing two pinhole photography projects, Light and Time and An Exercise in Stillness.  For Light and Time, I will install long-exposure pinhole cameras in public areas- like Gardens or along The Appalachian Trail.  I’ll leave them up for extended periods of time- six months or more.  The cameras’ paper negatives capture stationary details and the sun’s path through the sky. The movements of animals and people are lost to the light. I hope to use the pinhole camera images to sell postcards, photo books, and framed art.  My goal is that this project will help fund the part of my practice that doesn’t lend itself to commercial success.  I proposed my project to Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  A few days ago, I received a promising email- the Visitor Services and Special Events Manager wants to meet with me to discuss it further.  That’s encouraging!  

An Exercise in Stillness is the second pinhole project I’ve been developing. It’s a performative piece.  I’m not a very chill person.  The idea of meditating seems impossible and emotionally uncomfortable to me. To meditate, I will have to get something physical out of it.  So, I crafted a handheld pinhole camera in my Alternative Jewelry course.  The camera’s shutter is attached to a headpiece. When my head is lowered, the shutter opens.  If I lift my head, the shutter will close.  The longer I sit motionless, the clearer the image will be.  I’m interested to see if I can reach a state where the inner monologue falls silent, and I can just “be.”  

Thank you, MilspoFAN for giving me this opportunity to share where I was, where I’m at, and where I hope I’m going!  

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