Dolie Thompson
  • Westfield
  • interviewed 4-30-1999
  • photography, fiber

about the artist

Dolie Thompson was born in Wakefield, Nebraska, in 1956. She has three younger sisters, grew up on farms in Ponca and Jackson, Nebraska, and has lived in Westfield, Iowa, since 1978. After attending college in Nebraska, she received her B.A. in art from Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa in 1979, and earned her M.F.A. in 2002 from Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, Georgia. She is divorced and has three children. At the time of the interview, her part-time work as a floral designer provided income. Since receiving her MFA, she has been teaching and continuing her artwork. She is a photographer and also is doing fiber work with wool. She has participated in shows around the country.



artwork | audio


Pear Duo © Dolie Thompson | All Rights Reserved

Bird Stories 6 © Dolie Thompson | All Rights Reserved

Sage © Dolie Thompson | All Rights Reserved

Displacement © Dolie Thompson | All Rights Reserved

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Photos & fiber

I didn't have time to take art when I was in high school, because my schedule was so full because I had music. I never had any study halls or any spare time that I could take an art class, so I just did it on my own on the side. My dad liked photography. He had a camera that he bought, a Contax, and it had a good lens on it. He did night photography and different things, and that probably is what got me interested in photography.

I did a lot of fiber work at first when I was in college. And that started when I was probably about 10 or 11. I guess everyone in the family knew how to sew; it was just kind of expected that girls knew how to sew.

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Art major

I thought I was going to be a dietician. So I was taking food and nutrition classes and biology—that sort of thing. And I tried working in a hospital. I worked in food service a little bit, and then I really didn't like the hospital. And I thought, I don't want to go to work in a place everyday where I don't want to be! I just kept taking art. And finally I decided maybe I should just be an art major, since this is what I really want to do.

I didn't use my degree right away as far as for a job. I was doing a job that paid enough that I could support the family. But it's okay. What you bring to it when you get older—you just have more experience behind you. I photograph things differently than I would have twenty years ago.

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I hope that they will see my work and feel like they are invited in, like it's more of an inclusive, rather than exclusive, type of work. And I'm just putting it out there. This is what I see. I'm not really trying to moralize or anything. Whatever people bring away, that's up to them.

It deals with memory a lot. And I think everyone has their own memories,and when you leave enough space in the picture for the person to go in and kind of include their own memories, their own thoughts of what could be—that's kind of a non-directional thing.

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I just have a compelling curiosity about old buildings. It's the history that is interesting to me. There's just a certain a quality of light that I'm after when I go in there. I like the empty places, things that show the evidence of people having been there.

Everywhere I go I have a notebook in my car. And when I'm traveling, I'll take the back roads and I'll see where things are. Or I will ask people, too, if they know of any old schoolhouses, churches. And I will stop and look at it, figure out what time of day I need to be there. And I keep all this in my notes so that I know. And I look at different possibilities. Sometimes I just snap some pictures to get an idea of what I'm after. But when you're really making a picture, it's just a contemplative process. It isn't so much as going in and taking something, as being there and appreciating the fact that you're there, and recognizing the beauty of the light coming in this old building.

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Beautiful light

People sometimes look at these old buildings and say, "Well, you're taking pictures of falling down old buildings." This is from my kids' point of view. They say, "Well, you're dealing with death." And I say, "No, I'm not at all. I'm looking at the light, and it's beautiful to me, just the way the light comes in this building." I say, "Well, just think about it. That light's been touching that spot of the earth for millions of years, and then we put a building up and it's there for awhile, and then the building starts to come apart, and the light's coming back through the cracks." It's just a process of evolution.

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Everyone has their own opinion, I guess. I'm not extremely influenced by it one way or the other. I do what I have to do, and people can like it or dislike it. I have no control over that, and it's not my problem. It's very gratifying when someone sees your work and they get it. But it's just a matter of opinion. It would be impossible to please everyone. You just do what you need to do for yourself.

Do what you love to do. You have to find your own way. You have to just keep at it, and keep trying and not give up. That's probably the main thing is to believe in yourself and just keep working at it.

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