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Photo: Wylie House Museum
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Photo: courtesy The Scholars Inn
“James H. Thom, age 72, of Bloomington passed away…surrounded by close relatives and loving friends.”–Bloomington Herald Times, July 26, 2013.
Thom was a versatile creator who left behind a wide variety of work including antique restorations, faux finishes, murals in traditional styles, and his own Dali-esque paintings.
Born in Indianapolis, Thom studied art at the Herron School and in New York. In New York he also learned furniture restoration. “He was able to carve and replace just about anything to make it look the way it had looked or to do things that looked like old things,” explains older brother and neighbor, novelist James Alexander Thom. “Anything that was required to get a project done, he just seemed to know how to do it or to figure it out very quickly.”
“He was just a very eclectic kind of fellow who was perfectly happy to do an antique restoration or to paint an extraordinary canvas. It was all the same to him,” says journalist, author, and friend Doug Wissing.
In Bloomington at the corner of Sixth and College, there is a mural on the walls of The Scholars Inn Bakehouse that some think echoes the style of Grant Wood. Just across the street and up the steps in the Monroe County Courthouse there are the columns that he and apprentice Isiah Killion painted to look like richly veined marble. At Wylie House Museum over on Second Street the entryway sports a primitive-style mural that depicts buildings from the area back in the nineteenth century, the structure that first housed Indiana University among them. Thom was also commissioned to create murals in residential settings.
Recently at a Bloomington Gallery Walk viewers got to sample John Thom’s special personal vision in a series of canvases. “They’re all surrealist-based,” says Killion. “A lot of people call them Dali cartoons. They’re kind of a mixture of Picasso with Dali.”
“The art he best mastered,” according to his obituary, “was the art of friendship.”
“His philosophy of life…I characterize as a very Zen way of thinking about things,” says friend Doug Wissing.
“…always understated…a wonderful spirit…”says ‘Strats’ Stratigos who commissioned the mural at the Bakehouse.
“He kept kind of a low profile,” Thom’s older brother James remembers. “If I would try to put a label on him it would be a ‘Bohemian-Buddhist…he had a real deep spiritual side.”