On Sunday, Sept. 8, the Gore Gallery held an afternoon reception for two current exhibits honoring two MC artists: “Remembering a Legacy,” showcasing the work of the late Samuel Marshall Gore, and “Reflections Through the Eyes of a Servant,” showcasing the work of Dr. Kenneth M. Quinn.
It was my first gallery show experience. I appreciated art from afar, admiring the vivid pictures with only a surface theory of what lives beneath the color.
D.P. Smith, a professor in the Department of Art and my guide through the showing, said, “Everything we see is a surface to a story. There’s history, experiences, relationships beneath.” This I learned in my history and journalism classes, but only then did I put it into broader practice in the observation and appreciation of the life’s work of the two men honored that day.
Quinn’s vivid and rich paintings, caricatures, illustrations, and assemblages convey at once a surface beauty and a deeper meaning. He is acutely aware of the historical impact of events and the depth of that impact. For instance, his colorful crayon portraits of department buildings around campus set the building itself toward the top of the picture with rich waves and rivulets of color roiling beneath. His biblical works, like his Locust Triptych conveying the path of the gospel, express both the history and future of the Christian message through lines and planes that continue beyond the canvas. As Smith put it, they are “sermons on paper.”
Quinn graduated from MC over 50 years ago, taught junior high art for 30 years, and taught art at MC for 18 years. “Nobody in my family has this disease!” he laughed, considering his love and passion for creating. While encouraged by teachers as a child, Quinn said Gore was his “first and only teacher” who helped get him acclimated to the artist’s craft.
Many MC students know Dr. Sam Gore as the man behind the many beautiful sculptures of Christ on campus, but many do not know that his earliest work was in watercolor. In addition to several intricately molded busts, the Gore Gallery displayed several watercolor scenes willed to them after Gore’s passing in April. They echo the intricacy and detail of his later sculptures while also conveying the many emotions of color. My favorite of these was a study he did while in Costa Rica of a little house in a palm forest dripping in shadowy blues and brilliant greens.
Albert Smathers, a professor in the Department of Art, summed up Gore’s creative philosophy in one statement: “Swing the bat.” That is to say, you’ll never do it until you take the first swing. “Growing up on a farm,” Smathers said, alluding to Gore’s childhood, “You learn to make things work. You just figure it out.”
This show is more than just paintings, sculptures, and assemblages. It is the life expression of two Christian men worshipping God with their tools, their hands, their hearts. Smith said style develops from influences, what she called a “life pilgrimage.” The work of these two men is a manifestation of a life in service to Christ, of a life spent finding beauty in the world and the people in it. It’s a show of history, of the future. It’s a must see.
“Remembering a Legacy” and “Reflections Through the Eyes of a Servant” opened on Aug. 16 and will run until Dec. 15.