Joy Thomas was a member of the Murray Art Guild, a Kentucky Colonel, and a honorary member of the Australian Portrait Society. Beginning as a fine arts major at Murray State University, Thomas continued her training at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art in Connecticut, The Loveland Academy of Fine Arts in Colorado, and the Fechin Institute of New Mexico.
Her work includes landscapes and still life, but she is best known for her beautiful and engaging portraits. Thomas also received merit scholarships from the Pastel Society of America and the Scottsdale Gallery Association to study at the Woodstock School of Art in New York and the Scottsdale Artist’s School in Arizona.
Thomas passed away on October 1, 2018 in Murray. She was 60 years of age.
Murray State University’s Wrather West Kentucky Museum will be featuring a collection of Joy’s formal portraits from across the state and five commissioned by MSU, including the Tim Miller and the late Sid Easley. This exhibit will run through February 2nd. The public can view this exhibit during Wrather Museum hours which are Monday through Friday, 8am - 4:30pm.
The MAG Gallery will feature a collection of drawings and paintings from family and friends of Joy. Thomas was an instrumental figure in the weekly Life Drawing class at the MAG. Current members reminisce that she could “really set up the model,” and miss the instructional perspective she brought to the studio. The MAG Gallery exhibit will run through February 1st, and can be viewed during MAG open hours of Tuesday to Friday, 10am - 4pm, and Saturday 10am - 2pm.
Thomas served as guest artist/instructor for the Minnesota River School of Fine Arts, the Loveland Academy of Fine Arts in Colorado, the Dallas Association of Creative Artists, the St. Louis Artist’s Guild, the Cincinnati Art Club and the Australian Society of Portrait Artists in Sydney.
Thomas completed many portrait commissions for leaders of business, government, academia and finance. She painted the official portrait of the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzig. It was unveiled in 2001 and is in the permanent collection of the Pentagon. Her portrait of the Secretary of the Navy was featured on the front page of the Washington Post on October 21, 2009.
Thomas traveled to New York City in 2004 to paint Robert Wood Johnson, philanthropist and owner of the New York Jets. She was selected to paint the official portrait of the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the painting was unveiled in Washington D.C. in 2006. In 2010 she completed two official portraits of Chief Federal Judge Thomas B. Russell, for the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse of Louisville and the Federal Courthouse of Paducah.
In 2012, she unveiled the official portrait of Steven Beshear, the 61st Governor of Kentucky. That same year Thomas was awarded the contract to paint the official portrait of the U.S. Secretary Of Commerce, John Bryson, the completed painting is in the Herbert C. Hoover Building, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington D.C.