A Vinalhaven man who cared for pop artist Robert Indiana during the final years of the artist’s life is denying allegations made by Indiana’s estate this week that he neglected his duties as a caretaker.
Jamie Thomas, through his attorney, Thomas Hallett, issued a statement Friday in response to legal documents filed Wednesday by attorneys representing Indiana’s estate that claim the artist was living in squalor while he had $13 million his bank account, which Thomas managed.
The documents were filed in response to a lawsuit brought by Thomas earlier this summer in which he was seeking $2 million for legal fees. Both Thomas and Indiana’s estate are embroiled in a federal lawsuit that was filed in New York the day before the artist died in May 2018.
“Mr. Thomas is deeply hurt by allegations that he would be so cruel to such a dear friend. Specifically someone who Mr. Thomas so greatly admired,” Hallett wrote in a three-page statement, that included photos of Indiana seeming to enjoy life on Vinalhaven. One photo shows Indiana holding Thomas’s son in 1996.
Jamie Thomas served as Indiana’s caretaker for about a decade beginning in 1989, and then again from 2013 until the artist’s death. Indiana, who is widely known for his ‘LOVE’ series of pop art sculptures, died in 2018 at his Vinalhaven home where he lived since the late 1970s.
James Brannan, the attorney representing Indiana’s estate, accused Thomas of stealing nearly $1 million and improperly taking more than 100 works of art from Indiana, claiming they were gifts.
While this alleged theft was going on, Indiana’s home — called the Star of Hope — was falling into severe disrepair, with pigeons living in the roof, water damaging books, rotting wood and the stench of cat urine, according to the estate’s counterclaim to Thomas’s lawsuit.
Thomas denies that he stole money from Indiana. Instead, Hallett described him as “a financial champion” for Indiana, claiming that he fixed years of financial deficiencies left by Indiana’s previous assistants.
Additionally, Thomas claims that every piece of Indiana’s artwork he possesses was given to him as a gift by the artist.
“Mr. Thomas can only state that each and every piece of art, or scrap of art as it may be, was personally gifted by Robert Indiana to Mr. Thomas, and the gifts were confirmed by a blanket gift letter executed by Mr. Indiana in the presence of and reviewed by independent counsel, Mr. Brannan,” Hallett wrote.
Throughout the statement, it is consistently claimed that Brannan was aware of the financial transactions that Thomas was making on Indiana’s behalf. This included establishing the Star of Hope Foundation, as a nonprofit entity, which Indiana envisioned would serve as a museum after his death. Indiana chose Thomas to serve as the foundation’s executive director.
Thomas also claims that he gave Indiana “faithful” attention and care, which he alleges Brannan witnessed.
According to the statement, a health care provider from Vinalhaven visited Indiana in his home during the last two years of his life. “The Health Officer did not observe signs of poor living conditions in Mr. Indiana’s residence, or poor or inappropriate treatment of Mr. Indiana. In fact, quite the opposite was witnessed,” Hallett wrote. “The observations were that Mr. Thomas facilitated a clean, safe, respectful and supportive environment in which Mr. Indiana could live as he expressly desired, in his own home surrounded by his belongings, with his cherished canine companion, Woofy, in his lap.”
A photo of Indiana eating breakfast with his dog Woofy in 2018 was also included in the statement.
While Friday’s statement served as a public response from Thomas to the allegations filed in the counterclaim documents this week, he has until next month to submit a response to the counterclaim in Knox County Superior Court.