Cappy Thompson is an internationally acclaimed Seattle artist known for her mythopoetic narratives on glass created via the grisaille painting technique. Early in her career, she was drawn to the images and symbols of the medieval period, inspired by the Christian tradition of Western Europe as well as the content of Hindu, Pagan, Judaic, Buddhist and Islamic painting. In more recent years, the artist has moved away from mythological narrative and toward compositions on vessels that draw upon images and themes from her personal life. Thus began an autobiographical exploration of world culture and spirituality that continues to the present.
Thompson states: “For me, as a narrative painter, the issue has always been content. The issue wasn’t glass, the material that I chose some 45 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.”
Born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1952, Thompson grew up in Seattle and attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she received her BA in 1976 in painting and printmaking. Basically self-taught, her first professional exposure to glass came in 1975 when she worked for a small studio in Olympia. For several years she learned and worked in solitude until her reputation brought her to the attention of glass artists Charles Parriott, Therman Statom and Dale Chihuly. In 1984 Thompson moved back to Seattle, and her subsequent exposure to artists at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington, led her to painting on vessel forms.
Thompson’s work can be found in collections worldwide, including those of the Corning Museum of Glass, Tacoma Art Museum, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, the Chrysler Museum of Art, Museum of Art and Design, and the Microsoft Corporation. Recent exhibitions include Indie Folk: New Art and Songs from the Pacific Northwest, held at The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at Washington State University, Pullman, 2022; The Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, Oregon, 2022; and Fluid Formations, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington, on view in 2021. Public commissions include large-scale installations at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Evergreen State College, and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. In 2019, Thompson designed, fabricated and installed eight painted glass windows for Salk Middle School, Spokane, Washington, a project commissioned by Washington State Arts Commission in partnership with Spokane School District.
A recipient of an NEA fellowship, the Libensky Award, and Pilchuck’s John Hauberg Fellowship, Thompson has also been artist in residence at Pilchuck and at Toyama City Institute. She has served on the Bellevue Arts Museum Advisory Council, the Board of Directors of the Glass Art Society and Pilchuck Glass School’s Artistic Program Advisory Committee and continues serving on the Board of Directors for Pottery Northwest. She has taught workshops around the world at 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; National Sculpture Factory, Cork Ireland; National College of Arts and Design, Dublin, Ireland; Northlands Creative Glass Center, Lybster, Scotland; Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina; Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington; and many more.
Though each piece tells its own story, there is one general message Thompson tries to convey with her work: “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.”