Spotlight On George Thigpen: Park Employee And Artist

Thigpen recreated the famous Afghani Girl from the cover of 1985 National Geographic using small pieces of cut paper.

Thigpen re-created the famous Afghani Girl from the cover of 1985 National Geographic using small pieces of cut paper.

George Thigpen is a valued employee who has worked at the Oak Marr Recreation Center for eight years.  During the course of his work at Oak Marr, it was discovered that he has a very special talent.

This discovery began when Thigpen started creating portraits of Oak Marr employees and their spouses. And it was then that it became apparent he has a very unique style, and utilizes some very interesting artistic methods.  His style of art is called “portrait collage,” and he begins by producing a pencil drawing of a subject, usually from a photograph.  From that drawing, and beginning with the eyes, he then begins to build the subject’s face with cut pieces of acid free construction paper, which are attached with glue.  His inspiration came long ago from a junior high school art teacher in Costa Rica.  He is primarily self-taught.  Other strong influences for him have been Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits, and Charles Thomas Close, an American painter and photographer.  Thigpen has worked in this medium for approximately 20 years.

Among outstanding works is his most recent piece, called “Afghani Mother and Child”. His best known work is based on the famous National Geographic cover from 1985 entitled “Afghani Girl”.  Afghani Mother and Child is currently on display at the Jo Ann Rose Gallery located at Reston Community Center at Lake Anne Village Center, where he is a member of the League of Reston Artists, and has submitted his work into competitions. This most recent piece recently won “Best of Show.”  His work is also displayed in other locations, such as at a restaurant in Sterling, Va., and most of his completed works are for sale.  (And yes, he accepts commissions for portraits.)  His current work in progress is a portrait of his father, who is turning 90 years old this year! 

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Sadly for all who have come to know him, our local artist is planning to retire in approximately two years.  And for both his dedicated work at Oak Marr and his unique artistic talents, he will be sorely missed!     

Written by Ken Adams, Fairfax County Park Authority volunteer   

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

5 thoughts on “Spotlight On George Thigpen: Park Employee And Artist

  1. George H. Thigpen II

    We did not receive this message about George until last night. It is a beautiful story that says so much about George, our first of six, diagnosed early in life as handicapped. Neither he nor Marile and I ever gave up. Ken captures so much about the son we dearly love, and now restpect as the man we knew he would become. Thanks Ken. We enjoyed talking with you at the Farm Market.

    George & Marile (703) 421-1690

  2. Roy Thigpen

    So proud of my big brother! George is a wonderful person, and seems to have a million friends wherever he goes.


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