"Pursue your interests," FHU art teacher Laquita Thomson advises, "and who knows? Someone might make a movie about it. And you'll be as surprised as I was."
Twenty years ago as an artist in Alabama, Thompson wondered how someone in that state became an artist. She set out to discover the answer to her question. "I wanted to know," she said, "how people who came from that place came to be artists and how they operated as artists." So, in the late 1980's and early 1990's she set out to document all Alabama artists.
Her research resulted in major papers on two of them: Maltby Sykes and Lois Wilson. This year two films using her research have premiered.
The first, "Maltby Sykes: Gentleman Modernist", was shown in January. Sykes, an octogenarian living in Auburn, Ala., at the time agreed to be interviewed by Thomson. Her work resulted in an oral history now in the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C. A filmmaker, Dale Schierholt, found her work and based his film on it. Thomson is listed in the film's credits.
The second, "Treasures from the Rubble", premiered May 19 at a film festival in Tupelo, Miss. It will also be shown in Toronto, Canada. Alexandra Branyan, film maker from New York City, consulted with Thomson multiple times during the filming.
Thomson, who attended the premier, sat quietly in the audience as Branyan asked anyone who had anything to do with the film to stand. "I wasn't about to move," Thomson said. She sat—until the filmmaker specifically called her to the stage and asked her to make some remarks. Branyan referred to Thomson as "the most knowledgeable expert on Lois Wilson."
The intended audience for both films is art history students and anyone interested in visual culture. "They're for an academic or cultural audience," Thomson said. "They are the kind of biographies one might see on PBS. The FHU library will soon have copies of both films."
The lesson for students? "Do work you are interested in," she urges. "Twenty years later someone else may use it in their artistic endeavors."