When I was asked last year by the Noyes Museum to do an exhibit at their gallery in Hammonton, I decided I would ask three south Jersey artists to let me interview and video them as they created a work of art for the exhibit. Invariably the response was, ‘You mean like John Thornton?” I had no idea who John Thornton was or why his name kept coming up. I’m usually a very curious person who would run to the computer to look up people or things I knew nothing about. For some reason, this time I didn’t.
While creating the format for ArtC”s website, we decided to include a page just for video features. When I proudly started telling artists about this, many said, “You mean like John Thornton?” This time I did go to the computer to Google Mr. Thornton. What I found was a slew of videos on YouTube by him, mostly about artists or art in our region. After watching a few minutes of the first one, I came to the conclusion that John Thornton was another wannabe filmmaker with few real skills. Editing was good, camera and audio quality borderline. I’m not a videographer by trade and really not qualified to pass judgement, but I know what I spend on equipment and classes. Then, recognizing a few artists’ names on his list of videos, I decided to watch more. That’s when I realized John Thornton’s videos had something mine obviously lacked; they had John Thornton.
Most of his work comes from a very personal place. He consistently uses the word ‘I’ in his voiceovers but it never comes across egotistical. He’s not afraid to poke fun at himself and frequently does. He is very knowledgeable about his subjects and it’s obvious the artists love and respect him. After all, he is one of them.
I briefly met John at Frank Hyder’s gallery in Northern Liberties a few months ago, where of course he had a video camera in his hand, but I wasn’t able to talk with him at length until this week on the phone. He’s a very interesting guy, passionate about the arts and he is serious about developing his filmmaking skills. I’m not a biographer, I do know he lives in Ocean City, went to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and taught at The Art Institute in Philadelphia. Anything else you need to know about him you can find out through his videos, they are worth watching.
l look forward to collaborating with him on some future project. I have a lot to learn.
Some samples of John’s work:
There are of course many more on art. Also, look for the one he did on skateboarding.