Carving out a lifestyle

Art by Kenneth M. Thompson on display in the MCCC library. (Photos by Vanessa Ray)

Growing up, artist Kenneth Thompson never gave sculpture much thought.

“I was a painter,” Thompson said. “That’s what I wanted to do.”

Shortly before graduating from Siena Heights, an adviser insisted he take a class in 3-D art.

During this class, Thompson discovered a love for carving stone, and a new passion began to take shape.

Though Thompson graduated from Siena Heights with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking – he knew his life would be devoted to sculptures.

Some of those sculptures are currently on display in the library at Monroe County Community College.

On Tuesday evening, Thompson spoke before a packed house in the atrium of the La-Z-Boy Center.

He began by discussing a painting on display by holocaust survivor Adam Grant, then segued into his own story.

One thing Thompson made very clear – there is no one more surprised by his success than the artist himself.

“I’ve been getting away with this for 42 years,” Thompson said with a laugh.

He said there are two secrets to living the life of an artist.

Artist Kenneth M. Thompson.

“The first is luck,” Thompson said. “The second is having a supportive spouse. When I decided I wanted a career as an artist, my wife is the one who had the job that paid the bills.”

Architecture plays a tremendous role in guiding Thompson’s creative process, and no architect has inspired Thompson more than Buckminster Fuller.

Though Fuller is known for his geodesic domes, what piqued Thompson’s interest was the architect's vision of concrete suspension bridges.

Fuller’s influence can be seen throughout Thompon’s installations.

Another common theme in the Blissfield artist’s art is the repurposing of materials.

From laminated Douglas fir set to be destroyed, to old granite countertops piling up outside a kitchen contractors’ warehouse, to the plexi-glass used by the Toledo Museum of Art to display kimonos, Thompson has made a career out of breathing new life into unwanted materials.