Willets Point-inspired paintings by a Whitestone native receive recognition

"Auto Body" by Emily Thompson
Images courtesy of Emily Thompson

Beauty can be found in unexpected places.

Whitestone native Emily Thompson is getting artistic recognition for her work in transforming the industrial wasteland at Willets Point into a series of oil paint pieces of art.

Thompson’s painting “Auto Body” was included as one of the 50 Memorable Paintings of 2015 in the year-end issue of Poets and Artists Magazine.

Her work has also been chosen twice in 2015 in the top 15 percent of entries of the BoldBrush painting competition, a monthly online showcase that awards cash prizes to fine artists.

Thompson is well deserving of the accolades, with the character of Willets Point easy to recognize in her art but also elevated to transcend the utilitarian nature of an area that many in Queens believe would be better suited to residential and retail use.

She sees the beauty in the aged rust stains of the auto body shops and features them prominently among shades of gray, industrial neon and faded colors to create a visual love letter to the grit and graffiti.

“These paintings are more representational than my usual style,” said Thompson, who also does extensive work exploring abstract painting.

Thompson first became aware of the Willets Point landscape as a teenager traveling to school on the above-ground 7 train.

She has always been fascinated by the colorful graphics of the urban landscape at Willets Point, especially the typography of the signage at the scrap metal yards and auto body shops.

Though she no longer resides in Queens, Thompson visits the “World’s Borough” every summer to attend the U.S. Open tennis championships and during these trips she always makes sure to visit Willets Point, or the “Iron Triangle.”

“I try and photograph as much as I can during the short time I am there,” Thompson said.

Thompson — a graduate of School of Visual Arts in Manhattan — is an award-winning graphic designer who has worked as an art director for the in-house advertising department of Bloomingdale’s and the senior graphic designer of marketing at Playboy Enterprises.

She has also found success as an editorial illustrator, with her work appearing in major publications, books, greeting cards and advertisements.

Thompson currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, fellow fine artist George Thompson. Her painting “Auto Body” will be displayed at the Monmouth Museum’s 37th Annual Juried Art Exhibition in New Jersey until March 13.