Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present a survey in memoriam of Deanna Thompson (1958-2015). Thompson began her career as a painter in Los Angeles before moving to Yucca Valley in the 1990s. For more than three decades, she was influenced by the vast landscape of the California desert. Largely living and working in isolation, Thompson explored the modern tension between society and her overwhelming natural environment.
Thompson’s paintings describe a sense of beauty found in the marks of human activity passed. Her works reinvent the romantic view of landscape, painting in favor of one that is unsentimental and rooted firmly in the moment. Through her subject matter of deserted homesteads, discarded man-made objects, and cast-off cars, Thompson addressed issues of memory, time and the forgotten by reframing the material components of modern life to create dense portraits of the world as it surrounds us. These objects—placed between wide, flattened fields of earth and sky—are charged with a highly detailed hand and offer a shifting level of complexity, ranging from realism to abstraction.
Thompson considered her work as a form of portraiture, tracing the passed lives impressed upon these inanimate objects. Entering into the domestic interior, her series of ‘Light Fixtures’ were painted as portraits of friends within their homes. Again adopting two emptied planes (here, ceiling and wall), light functions in a different way. Washed by a full, sometimes harsh glow, the fixtures are pinned by a thin shadow mostly hidden from view. These are lonely objects, suspended in the untouched space that hangs above life as it passes.
Thompson’s portraiture extended to the human subject. In 2012 she began an ongoing conversation with the French artist Michel Auder. At Thompson’s request, Auder would email her portraits from which she would work and then return. With the authority of selection and attention, Thompson painted these images in her own varying degrees of detail and removal to carry the photograph beyond its ‘origin’. Created on an intimate scale close to a postcard, these works tend to do away with the broad horizon line and instead are consumed with texture.
In her very last series of works, Thompson returned to one of her earliest projects in which she composed photographs of herself in many guises. She painted these images adopting the gray scale palette of the 1978 black and white photographs, moving from the usually saturated range of color found in her work. These bold early self-portraits stand apart from Thompson’s otherwise reclusive nature throughout her career, and serve to frame her life-long artistic meditations on composition, isolation, and passage from her rich, singular position.
Born in Bakersfield, California, Thompson studied painting at CSU Bakersfield before moving to Los Angeles. She began exhibiting her work publicly in 2010 and is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. On the occasion of her first solo exhibition in 2010, the Los Angeles Times’ Christopher Knight noted her ability to “imbue [a landscape] with quiet mystery [and]...subtle desperation” as well as her ”unostentatious integrity.”
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