For me, as a narrative painter, the issue has always been content. The issue wasn’t glass, the material that I chose some 37 years ago. Nor was it the painting technique—grisaille or gray-tonal painting—that I taught myself to use. My work—which spans several decades and a variety of scales from the intimate to the monumental—has always been driven by content.
Early in my career I was drawn to the images, symbols and painting of the medieval period—but not just the Christian tradition of Western Europe. I loved the content of Hindu, Pagan, Judaic, Buddhist and Islamic painting as well.
These were images created before the invention of “art” as we know it—before painters controlled the content of their work. These were works decreed by religious and political authorities to depict the magnificence and beauty of the natural and divine order.
What I loved was the naïve naturalism and devout simplicity of that period—like the folk art of any period.
I started by designing and painting glass panels based on the narrative content of mythology, fables and folktales, drawn in oblique projection, with transparent jewel-like colors. Later I painted similar narratives on glass vessels.
About fifteen years ago I found myself moving away from mythological narrative and toward compositions on vessels that drew upon images and themes from my personal life. Elements would drift up and assemble into picture-poems that seemed to have a life of their own.
I began to understand these works as reflections of the spiritual and psychological issues in my life. I painted members of my family and myself in a kind of autobiographical fantasy, working with the mythopoetic materials of my life. I cast myself into scenes from various spiritual traditions.
This began an autobiographical exploration of world culture and spirituality that continues to the present.
I see now, after more than three decades of work, that I am like those medieval painters striving to express magnificence and beauty. But my expression focuses on the human experience of goodness, of hope and of love.”
Cappy Thompson is an internationally recognized Seattle artist known for her mytho-poetic narratives on glass using the grisaille (or gray-tonal) painting technique.
1976: B.A., Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia
Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan
Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama
Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, Alabama
Museum of Arts and Design New York, New York
Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington
Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, Toyama, Japan
Washington State Arts Commission, Olympia, Washington
2005: Libensky Award, Pilchuck Glass School
2002, ‘09, ‘12 & '15: John Hauberg Fellowship, Pilchuck Glass School
1997: Washington Artist Trust Fellowship
1990: Visual Arts Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
2016: "Fired up: Women in Contemporary Glass," Mint Museum
“All Together Now,” Vashon Center for the Arts
"The Beauty of a Shared Passion," Tacoma Art Museum
2015: "Flourish: Selected Jewelry from the Daphne Farago Collection," Asheville Art Museum
2013: "Telling Tales: Narrative Works by Nate Steigenga, Cappy Thompson and Anna Torma, Bellevue Arts Museum
“Northwest Artists Collect,” Museum of Glass
2012: “Playing with Fire,” Museum of Arts and Design
“Pilchuck: Ideas,” Museum of Northwest Art
2011: “Seattle Collects,” Seattle Art Museum
2010: “Eyes for Glass: The Price Collection,” Bellevue Arts Museum
2006: “Cappy Thompson: Stars Falling on Alabama,” Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
2005: “Cappy Thompson: Glass Vessels for a Dream Voyage,” Hudson River Museum
2004: “Transformed by Fire,” Seattle Art Museum
2002: “Contemporary Directions,” Carnegie Museum of Art
1998-00: “American Glass: Masters of the Art,” Smithsonian traveling exhibition
1997: “Glass Today by American Studio Artists,” Boston Museum of Fine Art
1996: “Breaking the Mold: New Directions in Glass,” Huntsville Museum of Art
1995: “Holding the Past,” Seattle Art Museum
1994: “World Glass Now ‘94,” Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art
1992: “Australian International Crafts Exhibition,” Art Gallery of Western Australia
1989-92: “Craft Today U.S.A.,” American Craft Museum, International touring exhibition
1987: “Thirty Years of New Glass,” Corning Museum of Glass
Selected Public Art Commissions
2010: Tukes Valley School, Battle Ground, Washington. Design, fabrication and installation of 2’ x 100’ frieze of painted windows. Commissioned by Washington State Arts in partnership with Battle Ground School District.
2008: Covington Library, Covington, Washington. Design and fabrication of 6’ x 8’ reverse-painted glass mural. Commissioned by King County Library System.
2006: The Evergreen State College, Daniel J. Evans Library, Olympia, Washington. Design, fabrication and installation of 10’ x 66’ art glass window wall. Commissioned by Washington State Arts Commission. Fabricated at Derix Glasstudios, Germany.
2005: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama. Design, fabrication and installation of art-glass triptych with central 22’ x 10’ arched window and two 12’ x 11’ side window/door surrounds. Commissioned by Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Fabricated at Derix Glasstudios, Germany.
2003: Museum of Glass, Grand Lobby, Tacoma, Washington. Design, fabrication and installation of 12’ x 15’ reverse-painted glass mural. Commissioned by Museum of Glass.
2000-03: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington. Design and fabrication of 33‘ x 90’ art glass curtain-wall. Commissioned by Port of Seattle. Fabricated at Derix Glasstudios, Germany.
2016: Glass Art: 112 Contemporary Artists, by Barbara Purchia & E. Ashley Rooney, Schiffer
2013: Best of the Northwest: Selected Works from Tacoma Art Museum, by Margaret Bullock and Rock Hushka, Tacoma Art Museum
2011: “Collaborative Vitreography,” by Cappy Thompson, Walter Lieberman and Dick Weiss, Glass Art Society 2011 Journal
2010: Masters: Blown Glass: Major Works by Leading Artists, by Susan Rossi-Wilcox, Lark; Glass Art from the Kiln, by Rene Culler, Schiffer
2006: 500 Glass Objects: A Celebration of Functional and Sculptural Glass, by Susan Keifer (ed.), Lark; 25 Years of New Glass Review, by Tina Oldknow, Corning Museum of Glass
2005: Dual Vision: The Chazen Collection, by Nancy Preu (ed.), Museum of Arts & Design; “Sea-Tac Public Art Projects: The Glass Commissions,” by David Wagner, Stained Glass Quarterly (Winter)
2003: International Glass Art, by Richard Yelle, Schiffer
2002: “Whatever Happened to Stained Glass?” by Geoffrey Wichert, Glass 86 (Spring)
2001: Contemporary Glass: Color, Light and Form, by Ray Leier, Jan Peters and Kevin Wallace, Guild
1998: Glass: From the First Mirror to Fiber Optic: The Story of the Substance that Changed the World, by William S. Ellis, Bard
1997: “Cappy Thompson: Narrative, Mythopoesis and the Vessel Form,” by Shawn Waggoner, Glass Art (January-February)
1996: Pilchuck: A Glass School, by Tina Oldknow, U. of Washington
1992: “Cappy Thompson’s Fabled World,” by Ron Glowen, Glass 47 (Spring)
1991: Out of the Fire: Contemporary Glass Artists and Their Work, by Bonnie Miller, Chronicle; Living with Art, by Rita Gilbert, McGraw-Hill
1989: Contemporary Glass: A World Survey from the Corning Museum of Glass, by Suzanne Frantz, Harry Abrams
Other Professional Experience
2016-present: Board of Directors, Pottery Northwest
2011-12: Board of Directors, Glass Art Society (Auction Chair)
2003-present: Artistic Program Advisory Committee Member, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington
2003-10: Trustee, Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington
1989-92: Board of Directors, Glass Art Society (Secretary, 1990-92)
1987-present: Workshop instructor: Bildwerk, Frauenau, Germany; California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California; Canberra School of Art, Canberra, Australia; Centro del Arte Vitro, Monterrey, Mexico; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; International Glass Center, Dudley College, Stourbridge, England; Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida; Kent State University, Kent, Ohio; Northlands Creative Glass Center, Lybster, Scotland; Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio; Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina; Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington; Pratt Fine Arts Center, Seattle, Washington; Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York; Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York; Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, Toyama, Japan; Urban Glass, Brooklyn, New York; Wanganui Summer School of the Arts, Wanganui, New Zealand; YaYa, New Orleans, Louisiana; et al.