Originally from northeast Texas, Joe A. Thomas earned a B.F.A. in art with a concentration in art history at the University of North Texas. He exhibited widely as an undergraduate, primarily in ceramics, weaving, and painting. Upon graduation in 1982, he began work for Hyatt Hotels, where he continued working part-time through graduate school.
Thomas earned an M.A. in art history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas in 1988, writing a thesis on “Eroticism in the Art of Parmigianino and Its Implications for the Mannerist Style,” and in 1992 completed a dissertation on “Eroticism in American Pop Art, 1958-1968” at the University of Texas at Austin. He spent one semester as a full-time visiting instructor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and a year as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Houston in 1992-93.
In 1993 Thomas was appointed assistant professor of art history at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He served six years as chair, and came to Kennesaw State in 2008 as chair of the School of Art and Design. He returned to the faculty as professor of art history in 2013.
Thomas’s scholarly interests cover a wide variety of areas in modern and contemporary art, Italian Renaissance art, and issues of sexuality and representation. He has published in journals from the Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte to The Journal of Sex Research. He has presented many papers at national and international conferences, most recently at the 40th International Congress of the Comité Internationale d’histoire de l’art in Nürnberg, Germany, where he spoke on Robert Indiana. Thomas has received funding or awards from the NEH, the ACLS, and the Getty Foundation. He has taught an unusual range of classes from the art history surveys to Italian Cinema, as well as seminars ranging from Mannerism to Andy Warhol. His extensive travels have allowed him to see many famous monuments firsthand.