Day job: Chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene
Secret life: Painter
The mountains, the valleys, the colors, the contours …
This is what Ana Luz Thompson, chair of the Department of Dental Hygiene, admires about … teeth.
Yes, teeth. Thompson, who joined the faculty in 2002 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Augusta University, finds beauty in this most unlikely of subjects, and nothing gives her more pleasure than capturing their essence on a canvas.
“I like the shape and curves of teeth, especially the molars,” says Thompson, who has a joint appointment in the College of Allied Health Sciences and The Dental College of Georgia. “I know every little crevice, and I’ve wished before that I could help students better visualize and navigate through all their features. They’re like landscapes.”
Thompson, a native of Mexico, has always loved art, but it was her particular eye for human dentition that moved her toward the avocation. “I have a collection of 12 paintings of teeth,” she says. “I try to put them in different environments and add new perspective to them. One looks like mountains. Another is a beach setting; I think of occlusion (the way upper and lower teeth fit together) as the perfect relationship, so I made it romantic.”
Dr. Connie Drisko, the college’s dean during the early years of Thompson’s tenure, was an avid art lover and collector, and she was tirelessly devoted to the dental school’s esthetic appeal. She solicited artwork for the new building, and part of Thompson’s collection is among the pieces on display. (Visit the second-floor Pediatric Dentistry/Orthodontics waiting room for a better look.)
Thompson, who took several art courses at Augusta University to refine her skills, works mainly in oil, but enjoys acrylics and ceramics as well. “I use a spare bedroom as a studio, and I have everything set up so that anytime an idea comes, I’m ready to put it on canvas.”
She doesn’t hesitate to revise a piece or even paint over it if the mood hits her. “I like to change things around until I’m happy.”
Thompson noted that one of her greatest joys as an artist is having her work displayed on campus, the institution that set her professional dreams in motion. “I began working here in the 1990s before I got my degrees, and it was such an honor to come back years later as a member of the faculty,” she says. “It’s such a privilege to have my paintings displayed here. This is my alma mater. This is my home.”