Brushstroke Miracles: Marcus C. Thomas Creates Extraordinary Works Painted By Mouth

The Fort Myers artist is paralyzed from the shoulders down.

  Marcus C. Thomas celebrates two birthdays each year. According to one, he is 57. And according to the other, which he marked just about the time I met him last March, he is 31. He and his wife, Anne, call the latter his “rebirth.” In his first life, Marcus emerged as the second of four kids with an insatiable energy that led him to all things athletic and outdoors. As a boy, he played baseball and flew model gliders. In his early 20s, he embarked on a wilderness exhibition and worked as a commercial fisherman. He earned his college degree in outdoor recreation. He got a job as a ski instructor in North Carolina, and that’s where Marcus went into a cocoon of sorts, a three-week-long coma, and metamorphosed into the form he holds today. Conditions on Beech Mountain were poor in the late afternoon of March 3, 1986, but an experienced Marcus was undeterred by the ice-crusted mantle. The mountain got the better of him. He slipped and careened downhill, an oak tree breaking his fall—and his neck. The accident severed his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the shoulders down. His movement is limited to slight turns of the head—30 degrees (on a good day) to the right, to the left, up and down. He explains this and recounts the accident in the most matter-of-fact tones. If he were distraught in those early months, if he ever pines for his old life, his first one, he’ll never admit to it. Instead, he focuses exclusively on his magical di
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