Through the Kaleidoscope, and What Littia Sees There

New visitors to the club are often surprised to learn that we have an art gallery.  Once they see it, they often find it difficult to leave the room, and for good reason.  Our gallery showcases works by some of the most talented artists in the Magic City.

Birmingham artist Littia Thompson.

On display are examples of Ben South’s whimsical alphabet paintings, Sarah Miller’s urban landscapes, Catherine Dominick’s colorful abstracts, Lydia Poore’s portraits of old Hollywood, Billie Dupree’s imaginative mixed media work, Calvin Ross’ stunning life studies, and Reuben Halpern’s brilliantly unconventional metal sculptures.

Littia Thompson was in the gallery on a recent night, setting up an exhibit of her paintings.  She padded about the room in a flowing gypsy dress, looking very much the complex and loquacious artist she is.

"My paintings are often like looking through a kaleidoscope," Littia said. "There are deeper designs in them than what you initially see. When I start painting, I'm often not sure how I'm going to finish it. I don't know what the outcome will be until it's done."

A glimpse at one of Littia’s paintings is a glimpse into the introspective world of dreams and alternate realities.

“I paint my dreams a lot,” she said. “Dreams are time travel, full of meaning and metaphor. The more dreams I have, the more I believe that we create a lot of our own reality from experiences and things we didn’t even realize we had inside us.”

“Dreams are time travel?” I asked.

“Absolutely.  Time is a visual thing to me, as is the fine line between past and present.  Once you take a breath, it’s no longer now.”  She smiled.  “You know, the eyeball is such a complex piece of machinery, and I sometimes I think that me and Einstein, we have the same eyes.”

“How so?”

“I have a profound belief in the light, the speed of light and how light travels.  Einstein found that the speed of sound goes through an object and the speed of light wraps around an object.  If he had incorporated the speed of sound into his speed of light formula, it would have been some kind of time travel theory.”

Although the subject was fascinating, Littia could tell the conversation was straying from my wheelhouse.  “I really don’t understand quantum physics,” she said with a shrug.  “Nobody really does, but I find it fascinating.”

Glorified, one of Littia's most detailed pieces.

A native of rural Alabama (“straight from the plantation, baby”) who is afraid of bugs, names reality TV as her favorite guilty pleasure, and enjoys good champagne, Littia counts theater, fashion design, and playing guitar among her fascinations.  “I’m at the point in my life, though, when I’ve decided to quit dabbling in everything and master one thing before my life is over.”

“And that’s your art.”

She shrugged again.  “I was born an artist.  I can’t not create.  It’s who I am, and moderation is hard for me.  I’m either cold or on fire. I often wake up in the middle of the night, walk into the front room, smell paint, and start working.  When you have that unknown drive within yourself, you have to believe in it and follow it.”

Harriet Hosmer, Littia's artistic ancestor. (Engraving by Augustus Robin, 1873.)

It often sounds cliché when a person says art is in her genetics, but it’s true in Littia’s case.  Her grandmother’s aunt was Harriet Hosmer, one of the 19th Century’s most celebrated artists.  Often credited with opening the field of sculpture to women, she became an international celebrity after moving to Europe, where she was an associate of novelists Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Eliot and poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Littia is naturally proud of her artistic ancestor as she explores means of putting her own work to pragmatic and charitable use.

“Everything seems so useless and void if you don’t do it for a purpose,” she said.  “If you feel an overwhelming need to do something, you should probably do it.”



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