ost of the pieces usually reside out of the elements in the protection of the barn at the back of the property. But their creator, Herman Thompson, had pulled the sculptures out and carefully arranged them that day so that we could view them. The inventiveness of Thompson’s combination of materials as well as the sheer number of pieces was impressive. The most dominating is a permanent fixture, one that towers over the edge of the driveway. This sculpture is a roughly nine-foot tall tyrannosaurus rex constructed entirely from found metal pieces. From a distance the dinosaur reads as a cohesive body; it’s only when you are within a few feet that the metal parts begin to read as individual components, giving a hint to their original use. Thompson’s primary material is found scrap metal that he welds into complex sculptures ranging in subject from the prehistoric to the everyday. Drawing from pop culture as well as his surrounding environment, he make works that are so popular in his community – and not just with family and friends - that he has a hard time, as he says, “keeping enough of them to have a big enough body of work to show.”
“I feel like I’ve succeeded when the bees try to drink nectar from the flowers. They just buzz around and get frustrated.” But describing Thompson as “self-taught” isn’t totally accurate. Trying to pin a label on artists working outside of the mainstream contemporary art world is really a pretty meaningless exercise. Folk art, traditional art, outsider art, naïve art, selftaught art are all terms that are used somewhat indiscriminately to describe work created by non-academically trained people. While Thompson might not have any formal training in art, his family has a tradition of creativity. “I learned to weld from my father. He loved to make things,” says the artist. “Everybody in my family is creative.” So in that sense he is not unlike other traditional artists who learn their craft from an older practitioner, usually a relative. Thompson inherited a drive to make something out of what other people would simply throw away. He points to several planters along the driveway and says that his father made those as well. Walking over to what appear to be white concrete urns and vessels, I’m astonished when they turn out to be repurposed automobile tires, completely transformed from their original doughnut shape. After heating them, his father had cut and shaped them, opening them out like flowers into decorative containers for the garden. The younger Thompson is in many ways an environmental artist, recycling cast off tin and other metals into work that transforms the space that he installs it in. He seems very aware of how he uses that space, not really that surprising in someone working with large sculptures that require an understanding of the physical demands of balance, proportion and placement. His desire to “get the subject right” can lead to a prolonged process, one that lasts months, sometimes even years since he’s more interested in finding the parts that fit the idea than in
Published on Sep 10, 2011
No fluff, no filler. Just the Southeast and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsme...