DAC Artist Spotlight: Taking Flight with Cameron Thompson - Duboski Art Collaborative

DAC Artist Spotlight: Taking Flight with Cameron Thompson

Sep 11, 2022


Monica Duboski



       Warm, unassuming, and approachable, artist Cameron Thompson emanates an energy that feels as grounded and organic as a Redwood tree. For the last sixteen years, Thompson’s home in the Oakland metropolitan area has been a place of sanctuary and haven in which to hone his craft and raise his family. However, settling here in his twenties was a deliberate anchoring by Thompson after constant moving and uprooting defined his childhood and adolescence. Perhaps that experience inspired Thompson's most prolific artistic motif—the ever-free and unbound bird. Dubbed “soul birds,” Thompson’s most recent iteration of his painted winged subjects illuminate the possibility of a borderless world and offers joy and healing in the face of trauma and loss.    

       From a young age, Thompson has felt a deep connection to the earth and describes a special relationship with Aves in both a tangible and spiritual way. He credits both his Native American/Irish heritage and his mom’s experience of working with animals for his affinity for birds and what they represent. Particularly when he was young, he recounts how his single mom, already stretched thin, would rescue birds and animals in need and take them into their home, providing shelter and care. In discussing his participation in Native American sweat ceremonies (which are performed for spiritual and physical purification), he describes the presence and significance of birds, especially the hummingbird, as a symbol of ancestral wisdom.  To Thompson personally, the hummingbird appears in times of tragedy and death as a source of comfort and healing.              

       Thompson’s paintings are primarily acrylic on canvas with additional use of spray paint, watercolor, gloss, and ink. Intended to be playful, eye-catching, and representative of earth’s beauty, Thompson’s color pallet consists of naturally occurring, vibrant hues such as Bougainvillea magenta, Jacaranda violet, and Arizona turquoise. As a collection, the depiction of birds contribute to his artwork’s central themes of perseverance and perspective. In his paintings, birds represent ultimate freedom and determination. No matter what the issue, conflict, or roadblock, Thompson’s soul birds seek to encourage onlookers to acquire a wider perspective and cast aside barriers. Thompson himself is inspired by these creatures that do not see borders and are not bogged down by ground-level obstacles. He states, “Their take-flight mentality is a reminder, I can overcome this.”         

       These themes are both personal and political. The hummingbird can offer healing and joy to those who experienced loss, but his birds also encourage reflection on political and social justice issues. Ever the teacher, Thompson seeks to provide a perspective that is elevated yet accessible to all. His work is driven by his desire to create community and be a vehicle for change. He says that the birds are able to tell a social or political story but in a non-literal or polarizing way. To that end, Thompson states, “It’s important to create a conversation and a dialog with people who don’t agree, who don’t believe the same things… art can be an access point.”  

       While his soul birds seek to take viewers on a transcendent journey towards enlightenment, Thompson's bold brushwork reflects a much more earthly experience. A graffiti writer from the age of ten, Thompson’s tagging hand styles greatly influence his artistic choice to frame his colorful birds and flowers with thick, black outlines. The effect produces imagery and coloring similar to a beautiful stained-glass window. Thompson openly professes his love of graffiti tagging and admits that “no matter how much I try to fight it, it comes out in my art…it’s part of my spiritual fabric, it’s part of who I am.” Thompson argues that tagging has been around since man was drawing on cave walls; that it creates a spiritual connection to one’s environment and reflects a primal urge to let people know, I was here

       Describing tagging as pure and raw, Thompson states, “I’m always fascinated to what degree and extremes people will go to put their name out there.” Indeed, amidst all the moves and changes of his youth, Thompson indicates that tagging provided a constant means of expression and connection to landscapes that did not always feel familiar. Of how the experience of tagging shaped his perspective, he shares that “graffiti taught me to appreciate my environment…to make me look at everything.” By bringing elements of this aesthetic into his current work, Thompson continues to elevate the beauty of the natural and spiritual world while simultaneously reclaiming the built environment as his own. 

       Finally, while his earlier renderings most often depicted birds at rest, Thompson’s work as of late has trended towards birds in mid-flight. In 2014, while discussing his art exhibit “Perched,” Thompson commented to Juxtapose magazine that sitting birds represented “the meditation before taking flight.”  But there is a perceived shift in the energy and vitality found in his current work; as if a decisive course of action has been chosen. Moreover, layered on top of collage (made with a collection of rare soul music labels), Thompsons birds en route evoke a playfulness and musicality that is positively uplifting. Since “Perched,” Thompson has become a father and says he has grown in appreciation for the present. His birds in motion reflect an awakening and an acknowledgment that tomorrow is never guaranteed.   

Artist Info

Cameron Thompson

Instagram: @cameronthompsonart @stayaware

Email: stayaware78@gmail.com

Photographer credit: Amelia Berumen  

Instagram: @lonely_girl_in_a_cold_world

Email: amyberumen@gmail.com

Website: ameliaberumen.com


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