top of page

Canyons:

Louisville textile artist Kris Thompson showcases her talent in her first solo exhibition.

“Red Rock Canyons of Sedona”

Capacity Contemporary Exchange

641 W. Main St.

Show: Dec. 1st

4-9pm



Canyons: Louisville textile artist Kris Thompson showcases her talent in her first solo exhibitionKris Thompson, will host her first solo show at Capacity Contemporary Exchange, December 1 - January 1. She is the Development and Special Projects Manager at KMAC Contemporary Art Museum and an original member of the Museum’s “FAB Five, a group of artists and creative thinkers who initiated the Museum’s annual KMAC Couture, “Art Walks The Runway” fundraiser. Thompson has been deeply involved with fiber art since early childhood. She grew up among family members from Ashland, Kentucky who crafted textiles and preached the gospel. Her great-grandfather was a Methodist preacher who would baptize his congregation in a pond behind his church. Below, VOICE-TRIBUNE talks with Thompson about her creative background, her passion for working with textiles and her upcoming solo show. 


When did you begin to create?  

“I started working with fibers when I was about five years old in the 70s in Louisville. We lived on a cul-de-sac in Okolona, right across from the Jefferson Mall, which hadn't been built yet; it was just a big field at that time. My mom would buy me latch hook kits from KMART. I was especially productive when we took long car trips. I would spend hours doing them in the back of our station wagon. We would go to Michigan and stay at my grandpa's place in the woods.  Every summer we would go to Florida to swim in the ocean and soak up the sun. The kits were mostly of animal faces. I would put them up on the walls of my bedroom. I was always sewing, knitting and crocheting. I was too little for a sewing machine, so I would just hand sew with a needle and thread. I would make patterns out of paper bags. I would lay the pattern on the fabric, cut it, then sew it together. I would knit a plain, simple garter stitch out of yarn, cut it into lengths, then sew it together to make a bigger piece. I could crochet any kind of string I could get my hands on. My  aunt Letha, who lived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was a weaver — essentially a fiber artist. She had a 4-harness 6-treadle loom and she wove wall hangings, placemats and napkins. She taught me how to weave and I fell in love with it. I would sit and weave on Aunt Lethas’ loom every time we went to visit her.”  


 When did you discover your gift as an artist? 

“When I was in first grade, I made a self portrait with pastel crayons. It won first place at Hartstern Elementary School. All the first place winners' artwork was displayed at the new Jefferson Mall. I told my mom I wanted to be an artist and a business woman.”  

Do you have any formal training? 

I went to UofL because they had a fiber department. I felt so lucky they had fibers! This was 1986-89. Lida Gordon was my teacher. There were just a few of us at the time. We had a nice space with looms, sinks and stoves for dyeing. I spent hours in the fibers department weaving these long strips in linen and wool. These strips would take hours and hours. I liked the repetition of the movement. To compensate for the long hours of weaving, I played with silk thread and gel medium on rice paper. They were line drawings, which I hung between plexiglass suspended by fishing line, so it was like they were floating. I could make three or four in a day. A few were chosen for the student show that they held in the main area of the art department. That was a very proud moment for me. Moving on, I did feel the need to get out of Louisville, so in my early 20’s I moved to Los Angeles.  I lived in Los Angeles for 24 years. In my 20’s I made money assisting other artists; I curated art shows in coffee houses, I waited on a lot of tables, I even acted in a few tv pilots and on an episode of Silk Stalkings!”

“In my 30’s I started a company where I designed knitted baby booties. It took me a year to get the pattern right. They were little fluff balls; you could set them on a shelf like little sculptures. There were a few celebrities that bought them. Jack Black’s assistant would come to my house in Venice and pick them up, and George Clooney bought them for Julia Roberts when she had her twins. They made it into the New York Times style section and other magazines and newspapers. They wound up on the Ellen Show at one point. I switched gears around 2007 and opened a store on Abbot Kinney where I sold the booties plus high-end vintage clothes and a clothing line I created with a design partner at the time. The store had a very long Moroccan couch where Venice folk would hang. Rosanne Barr came in once with a scarf wrapped around her head (she didn't want anyone to recognize her until she spoke!) and Olivia Wilde liked to shop there. It was kind of a flagship store on Abbot Kinney, so lots of people came in: very happy days until the recession, and we had to close. I regrouped and got a showroom in downtown LA with another partner, Violet Mauret, and we had a cool run designing pieces and styling vintage for Jessica Chastain and Ke$ha among others. We did lots of vintage shows together and flea markets. I decided to move back to Louisville in 2011 with my daughter Willa to be closer to my mom and dad. I used Facebook like an address book and my friend from High School, Elizabeth Mays, said I should get involved with a fashion show at KMAC, which is now the KMAC Contemporary Art Museum.  I have been there for the past eleven years.”


Who are your favorite fiber artists and mentors? “Sheila Hicks. Locally, Denise Furnish, Bette Levy, Alma Lesch. My mentor is Visual Designer Julia Comer. We met at KMAC in 2014. Julia has been a real design force on the Louisville art scene and is now designing books! She designed a book for Trace Mayer of Museum Bees and our KMAC 40th anniversary book. Julia and I have weekly visits at her place to talk about art and the creative process. She is the best; I feel so honored to be a part of her life in this way.”


Did you try other mediums before deciding you wanted to work with fiber? “I have always been drawn to fiber art and textiles. I like to build my work with the materials, then figure out a technique to put the pieces together to form the concept. Part of my creative process is exploring new techniques and ways of using materials.”

“I have incorporated paint and canvas into my work lately and have spent the last twelve years designing wearable art for KMAC Couture “Art Walks the Runway.” KMAC Couture is KMAC Contemporary Art Museum's annual fundraiser. I have designed around fifteen pieces for this fundraiser over the years. I love meeting and working with all the artists who are involved each year and finding ways to highlight them.” 


Where else has your work been shown?  “My work has been shown at Quappi Projects and The Shapin Nicolas Art Project (SNAP).”


“I was part of a group show that John Brooks curated at his gallery, Quappi Projects, in 2020.  The exhibit was called, ‘We All Declare Liberty.’ I wove the ‘Handmaid's Tale’ bonnet from linen and wire. I essentially wove the fabric, then cut the shape out using a pattern I made. I bought a foam head and a MAGA patch from Amazon. I attached the patch over her mouth with tiny little needles.”  


“The SNAP Foundation supports visual arts professionals in Kentucky through financial investment and exhibition opportunities at onsite galleries. They hosted a group exhibition curated by Rebecca Norton, Amy King and Lindsey Cummins for Waterstep. Waterstep is a mission-driven organization that provides water treatment, sanitation, health education and well repair training and products to communities in need. I designed a whimsical piece where I crocheted Kroger bags and hooked them with black soft twine. I named it ‘Touch me I'm Soft.’ Part of the proceeds benefited Waterstep with their work in the Ukraine.” 

What type of pieces should we expect in your first solo show?“I am really excited to be showing my work at Capacity Contemporary Exchange. It's a new gallery shop that opened on Main Street. It is owned by Casey Dressell and her husband Si; they have monthly shows exhibiting artists' work. They have a shop in the front of the space where they sell jewelry, ceramics and textiles. They also have artist studios for rent. It is the perfect intimate space for my show. The show will consist of pieces inspired from time I spent in  Sedona last October. I went on loads of explorative hikes. The stillness when you hear the wind through the canyons gives me a sense of peace. I am drawn to form, texture and color, and Sedona is an excellent canvas. It's known for its red sandstone colors that glow this beautiful orange when the sun hits them. There are streams and creeks nestled in the canyons, surrounded by beautiful pine trees. In this show, I am taking hemp twine and painting it with four to five layers of paint, drying a full day in between each layer, then weaving it into panels of color with wire that I crocheted. My focus was to capture the colors and form of the rock.”


Is there a connecting theme?  “I am inspired by the architecture of nature. I have seen textile shows where the pieces are hung right on the wall, which is amazing. I wanted to frame these pieces like paintings but still maintain a form through the  weaving process. The weavings are soft and sculptural as they come off the canvas. I am excited to do more work with this concept; play with the size.

  


What’s next for you?  “I am co-curating a show with artist Rebecca Norton at The Common Gallery at 1512 Portland Avenue in Feb/March 2024, which will feature all women artists. We put out a call for submissions and will also be featuring a lineup of women musicians opening night. So stay tuned for more details.”  


“I will be working on my design for KMAC Couture 2024. It will be an exciting year as we are partnering with Churchill Downs for its 150th anniversary! The curatorial statement is ‘Runway for the Roses.’ Designers are asked to submit a wearable piece of art that is Derby themed, but to think ‘outside of the box.’ The deadline for submissions is December 3 and artists can go to kmacmuseum.org to submit. You do not have to be a fashion designer; we have a lot of visual artists who submit.”  


“Red Rock Canyons of Sedona”

Capacity Contemporary Exchange

641 W. Main St.

Show: Dec. 1st

4-9pm


Comments


bottom of page