Wave Function III

Mildred Thompson (American, 1936-2003). Wave Function III. 1993. Vitreograph. Lent by Wes and Missy Cochran.

Coinciding with Emory's Creation Stories Project, Creating Matter explores the work of African American artist Mildred Thompson and her interest in the cosmos and the creation of the world.

Born in 1936, Thompson trained formally in the US at Howard University and at the Art Institute of Hamburg, Germany, among others. When she returned from abroad, she was discouraged to find that galleries in New York City were reluctant to feature the work of an African American artist. One gallery even suggested that Thompson hire a white woman to impersonate her in public. She returned to Germany during the 1960s as a result.

In 1986 Thompson settled in Atlanta, where she became editor of Art Papers and taught at several area institutions. The city would be her home for the rest of her life.

Thompson’s work is heavily influenced by African textiles, American jazz, European classical music, and German Expressionism. Most of her early work was figural, but she moved toward total abstraction in the 1970s.

The prints in this exhibition are mature works from the 1980s onward. They are full of movement, yet deliberately mysterious, revealing Thompson’s interest in creation, the cosmos, quarks, string theory, astronomy, and the Jungian “collective unconscious.”

Thompson died in 2003, leaving behind a massive and important body of work that remains relatively unexplored in the United States.


The exhibitions and educational programs in conjunction with the Creation Stories Project have been made possible by generous grants from the Thalia N. Carlos and Chris M. Carlos Foundation, Inc.; the Thalia and Michael C. Carlos Foundation, Inc.; and the Massey Charitable Trust.