Thom Ross “My Last Conversation with Albert Ball” New Paintings

SEATTLE, WA – 20 May, 2017 – Santa Fe Artist Thom Ross Exhibits Historical Paintings of WWI Flying Aces at Bellevue Gallery.

Thom Ross is known as the best living contemporary wild west painter in America. While his reputation has been made by his in depth knowledge, historical accuracy and a playful painting style of the wild west, his interests and additional subject matter doesn’t stop with just the west.

He has exhibited a variety of historical events from Spartacus and the Shackelton Exhibition to the original Indiana Jones, Roy Chapman Andrews in the Gobi Desert.

This NEW exhibit debuting in Bellevue Washington, revels around the unknown men who were flying aces of WWI.


Thom Ross Born in San Francisco in 1952, He has had a lifelong interest in American History and the “folk hero” who is a product of that history and has long been the motivating force behind his work. His emphasis however is focused on the historical “folk hero” as compared to the mythical “folk hero”. (An example of the historical folk hero would be Jesse James, a mythical folk hero would be Paul Bunyan; one actually existed while the other is a product of tall tales.

His desire is to produce a work of art that requires the viewer to re-examine either what he knows about history, or what he thinks he knows about history. Ross has done paintings of Indians playing croquet; Indians playing ping pong; A camel walking through the deserts of Arizona with a human skeleton strapped to his back; An outlaw member of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” gang in the quick draw stance of the gunfighter where his opponent is a skunk; General Custer standing next to his pet pelican or The Red Baron dropping candy above the school yard of his younger brother; and each of these images is based on an actual incident! By presenting such startling images, which are based in fact, it causes a unique reaction in the viewer.


Thom Ross “My Last Conversation with Albert Ball” is a NEW body of work debuting in Bellevue Washington and Boeing country, the unknown and uncelebrated WWI Flying Aces and their stories.

Young and duty bound, these men (boys) took to the skies for their countries and experienced immortal feelings as they soared the wild blue yonder. Decked out in there stiff uniforms covered in buttons and buckles, these boys wear the uniform that suggests invincibility and we all know that that is a lie.

This Exhibit puts a face behind the propeller.


Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery (adjacent to Bellevue Square on the property of the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Bellevue Place), 800 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 111, Bellevue, WA 98004 (425) 283-0461. (

Free parking available under the Hyatt Regency at Bellevue Place.


Opening Night and Meet the Artist Vernissage

Wednesday June 14, 2017 6:00-8:00 pm

June 14 – July 8


Thom Ross “My Last Conversation with Albert Ball” – WWI Flying Aces and their Stories.

If you click on any “military aviation art” site you will see that the artists focus exclusively on the planes. Maybe the pedestrian collector likes this approach…..but you will never see a painting of the men who actually FLEW those machines, regardless of the circumstances and Thom Ross is changing that.

If you look at a painting of a B-17 and MAYBE you see a pin-prick dot that represents the pilot or co-pilot…and that’s pretty much it where the pilot and the crew are concerned.

They don’t bury B-17’s in Arlington, they bury the men who FLEW those B-17’s in Arlington. It is all about the people with me and this current Exhibit at the Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery. Indeed, you will notice that the planes, themselves, are hardly ever the focus of the painting. Behind all that machinery and military glory etc. beat the heart of a human and THAT is the strongest angle of this body of work….putting a face behind that propeller, behind those machine guns, behind those goggles.

Ross has placed actual medals (some being vintage WWI medals!) on the paintings of Ball (an Englishman) and Voss (a German). That tiny piece of bronze is what these poor guys got for risking their lives (and for losing their lives; Ball’s VC was awarded to him after he was dead for God’s sake!)

There has to be some sense of humanity behind this otherwise grim and tragic reality….and not just another blurry, ancient black-and-white photo from 1917…..but a vibrant, contemporary colorful painting of these BOYS who were doing these things as they were about to turn from boys into men and, as his paintings show, very few of them made that transition. 

Without the humanity that carnage has no meaning. Ross was watching “Saving Private Ryan” the one night and they do not shy away from the carnage of that war……but they wrap it around the shoulders of characters who the viewer comes to know and like and, indeed, admire. And when they are killed, it isn’t a slight wound that allows our dying hero to recite heroic words and to express his “love for Laura” or whatever before dying. Death here is all-to-real.

Werner Voss and Albert Ball as ART………which, of course, they are.

Some of these paintings of Ross’ show that confident, immortal feeling that these KIDS had…….they dreamed of flying into the skies where it was the other fellow who got shot down. This can be seen as these boys are seen decked out in their stiff military uniforms covered in buttons and buckles, the even stiffer German hats, or the jauntily placed cap perched on the head of a doomed Brit……these boys wear the uniform that suggests invincibility and we all know that that is a lie.

Yet here Ross honors them, fliers from both sides, for that singular quality of what we call “the right stuff”, regardless of how misplaced it may appear to us now. People like him today can find meaning in these long-dead fliers….and it is that spark that burned in them which must be acknowledged and, in his case here, honored.

Like Thom Ross said, put a face behind the propeller.


Nairobi – January 2017

“Flying north from Nairobi I spotted an enormous mountain in the distance off to the west, its presence being only the gleaming of the sunlight off its snowy peak. I imagined the steep, volcanic slopes covered in broken lava and struggling vegetation; eagles and hawks wheeling on the thermals.

How many millions of years ago did it vomit up its molten belly?

My mind kept wandering and my imagination was working overtime. I tapped the pilot on his arm and gestured over the roaring engine to the faint shimmer in the distance. The pilot spoke just one word before returning his gaze to the dials and charts; he said simply, -Cloud-.”

“Yesterday we flew along the eastern edge of Lake Victoria; below us, the dhows on the lake could be identified by their classic triangular sails. Ahead of us stood the later afternoon thunder heads. To avoid having to climb over them, the pilot flew into the clouds…”

Annœullin, France – May 1917

Albert Ball flew into a cloud…

In his short time at the front he had shot down 44 German planes and was England’s leading ace at the time. 

Ball had developed his own style of combat and the Germans feared him as much as they respected him. But now, here, at the end, the stress was weighing on him and those who knew him (and survived) remember his pacing, the constant stream of cigarettes, and his long hours alone in his hand-made hut playing his violin. Towards the end he began to carry aloft a pistol. He was afraid that if his S.E.5 was hit in the engine it might ignite the heavy varnish which they used to coat the canvas of his plane; he would rather shoot himself than burn to death while falling to earth.

On this day in May, 2017, his last day, pursued by German fighters he sought refuge in the clouds. Apparently he became disoriented and some advanced German scouts saw his plane plummet, untouched, to the ground. When they got to the wreckage Ball was dead; he was only 20.

“Moments later we flew out of the clouds and saw the Serengeti far below us stretching for as far as we, and Albert Ball, could see.” TR

Photos of artwork available on request – contact Gunnar Nordstrom at 425-283-0461 or Thom Ross at

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Company Name: Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery
Contact Person: Gunnar Nordstrom
Phone: 425-283-0461
Country: United States