An Autobiography in Painting
This is titled "Two-Gun Pete," after my favorite toy cowboy, which features in some of my earliest memories. How well I remember the shadow Pete cast when I put him in front of our open front door at the right time of day. 18 x 24, acrylics, 2016/2017.
The name of this one is "The Gift." It is in honor of the older relatives who lived so close by when I was a boy. My maternal grandmother lived with us and helped raise me. She always seemed frail to me, which I try to capture here. 20 x 24, 2020.
"Moviegoers, 1975." An early-forming passion. 20 x 24, 2020
I call this one "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." It is inspired by the period in my teens when I discovered the joy of reading. 16 x 20, 2017.
"Drawing" -- which is about my other pastime when I was a teen. For me, drawing comics eventually gave way to writing. 20 x 24, 2019.
"Trumpet and Drums." At a certain point I contemplated my identity as a black American. I realized that my heritage included the achievements of black artists in a number of fields, including jazz. 20 x 24, 2019.
"Red Guitar in a Bar with Books." Represented here are several things that interested me during my young manhood... 22 x 28, 2020.
This one is called simply "Jazz." It further represents my interest in the music. The interracial couple pictured is a nod to my interracial marriage and family. A close look will reveal that the seated woman is pregnant. 20 x 24, 2020.
"Miles from Africa." Listening to jazz and reading about African art inspired this. What an African artist might have made of Miles Davis... 18 x 24, 2019.
"Playing After Work." 16 x 20, 2015. This is representative of the adult life I began to discover...
. . . As is this one, titled "The Dieter." 16 x 20, 2016.
“The Protestors.” Here is what is happening at the moment, beyond the parameters of my little life. 20 x 24, 2020.
And yet I retain my childlike interest in things, even if the things themselves have changed. This very early work is called "My City." 16 x 20, 2008.
About the Artist
Clifford Thompson, a Whiting Award–winning essayist and memoirist, is also a member of the Blue Mountain Gallery, a New York–based artists’ collective. Here, Thompson approaches the autobiographical impulse in a new way, attempting to convey a life’s journey through thirteen images with minimal written commentary.
Only one of these images—“Moviegoers, 1975”—was created specifically for the show, with the aim of representing an early and ongoing interest of the painter. The others were created before Thompson developed the concept for the series. That suggests, perhaps, that the autobiographical impulse was always present in painting as well as writing.