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GORDON BOARDMAN, OCTOGENARIAN’S JOURNEY OF LOVE AND FAITH

“And I feel that painting is my story. It is the ultimate expression for me. I can say more with color and space and gesture and imagery than I could ever do using just the English language. That to me is my motivation. I feel I still have a story to tell, and that’s why I continue to paint.” GORDON BOARDMAN

So it seemed to be a logical career decision for him.

Gordon graduated from Cooley with honors in 1978, and remembers the day fondly. “My “But I was concerned if this parents were able to make that was something I could do at ceremony,” he recalled. “Here this point in my life. Would I be I was, nearing 50, and there considered a candidate? I was they both were, just as proud of told ‘possibly.’” me as ever. It was important, I That was enough for Gordon. At think, to me and to them that I the age of 43, he began taking attained my juris doctor while classes at the young law school they were still living. I’ll never in January of 1975, while work- forget the looks on their faces.” ing with the legislature by day. Gordon passed the Michigan bar on his first try, then worked “I wasn’t sure I’d have the stamina to pursue the degree,” in a law office in the nearby Michigan Tower building. Gordon remembers. “I knew

“I don’t tout the law thing, because people wanted to label me as a lawyer who paints,” he explained. “But I’m not. I’m a painter who happened to be a lawyer.”

Yet Gordon had many other responsibilities.

“I looked after both of my parents who were in Madison,” recalled Gordon. “I brought them with me, and took care of “Even though I can’t say that my mother in my home in East law has pervaded my artwork, I Lansing until she died from think it’s there in some degree,” cancer. My aunt and my father shared Gordon on whether his lived with me too. I also had a legal background influences brother who was ill, and I lost his work today. “The sense him prematurely. I had planned of organizing my thoughts in to care for my aunt in East terms of what I’m going to do Lansing until she died, but she imagery-wise gives me a different insisted that I needed to go. She sensibility because of my told me, ‘You move and find your experience in law. I had to learn own place.’ So I did. I moved to what a commitment it was, so “I met many wonderful people a different form of language. I Kalamazoo.” I set aside any other plans I through my work, and they knew had four years of Latin in high had and stayed with it for three of Cooley,” recalled Gordon. Despite his heavy family school, and I loved language. I years – no vacations, nothing. When I reminisce with Don responsibilities, Gordon managed feel the law degree enhanced my I won’t say I could ever do it (LeDuc) when we have lunch, to keep up with his painting. whole take on life. And so, it’s again — it was arduous — but we found we knew a number of there, and I’m very glad that I I had wonderful professors, not “I had been able to establish a people in the legislature, not the pursued it and achieved it.” the least of whom were Don good rapport with a New York least of them Governor Milliken, LeDuc and John Rooney.” gallery (Denise Bibro Fine Art), whom I knew and for whom I For Gordon though, it was about and I’ve been with them 20 served on a special Financial his art. About how precious and Despite the fact that Gordon years now,” stated Gordon. “So I Institutions Commission. It was sacred painting is to him. “My felt ill at ease being nearly had a New York gallery that was a big help to have law as part life is the impetus for my art, my two decades older than the interested in my work. I had a of my knowledge, along with a art for my life,” he declared in average student, he was not good rapport with the Kalamazoo sense of academia. I also can the 1995 Benchmark article. intimidated in terms of his Institute of Art. And the take credit for some legislation ability to absorb data and his Gordon’s commitments went far Muskegon Museum of Art also that was achieved. I had a 37intellectual capacity. beyond his love of art. liked my work. I had won awards. year career with the companies I I took the grand prize in St. “I didn’t write as quickly as worked with, so that was a long “Of course, my purpose of Joseph in 1993, and then again these younger students,” career in its own right in finance retirement was to be able to here at the Kalamazoo Institute Gordon admitted, “but I was and insurance, and my law devote my full time to my in 1999, and had several equally adept at reciting and degree helped me immensely painting,” Gordon clarified. honorable mentions at Muskegon did a pretty good job at case in that.” “I already had my studio in and at other forums, so it all gave rendering. I was able to stay Kalamazoo that I had begun in me a lot of assurance in what I abreast with it long enough to 1990, and Richard (Wills), my was doing and affirmation that I graduate with distinction. Even life partner, lived there for his should continue. with the ups and downs, work. I wanted to be near him.” I persevered.”

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I still feel there’s enough momentum to what I’m doing, enough favorable feedback, so that I feel that I have no choice but to continue. And I’ve done that for two decades. As you can see, I’m still quite prolific.” The joy of painting and his music also overlapped for Gordon. As a classical pianist, he remembered fondly how he and his father shared that magical love for music. And how it has influenced him every day.

“Music is very important to me, and I believe it shows itself all the time in my work,” reflected Gordon. “I feel that there’s a sense of music, and form, and rhythm of movement, that the two overlap and need each other. I don’t think I could do what I do without music.”

Richard, a highly regarded speech pathologist in the area and devoted member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, died suddenly in the spring of 2007. “We found out that he had pancreatic cancer, and it was seven weeks from diagnosis to death. It was devastating.”

20s; Gordon a budding artist; Richard a performance artist at the time (theatre and ballet). “I did not know if I could ever get back to painting, even though Richard encouraged me to do so,” shared Gordon.

“That was the day the music stopped,” teared up Gordon. In fact, Gordon always had music “I’ve never played anything in playing in his art studio when he Gordon never left Richard’s the studio since then. But I’ve was creating. side during those seven weeks. learned there’s wonderful music Father James Croom from St. Until the day he lost Richard. in silence, and I’ve decided Luke’s married the longtime that that was even a higher couple while Richard was in (continued) hospice. The two met in their

Gordon with his life partner, Richard Wills.

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Benchmark | Winter 2016  

This issue of Benchmark prominently features our dear friend, alumnus and nationally renowned artist Gordon Boardman, who has made a monumen...

Benchmark | Winter 2016  

This issue of Benchmark prominently features our dear friend, alumnus and nationally renowned artist Gordon Boardman, who has made a monumen...