Gordon still rents out studio space in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo – the same space he has rented since 1990.
yet much is the same.
Gordon does not, and will not, use a computer; preferring conversation in person, on the phone or in a letter.
level of music for me. So I feel a sense of music, even in silence. There are breaks, even in music. If you didn’t have some silent parts, you’d go stark raving mad. So I’ve learned it’s with the silence that I’ve grown as an artist. I’ve had silence in my studio for nine years now, and I feel it’s been an enabler of finer work for myself.”
“We work on the finest things,” shared Gordon. “We work on Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart — works that are performed by concert pianists. For me, there’s a poem by Robert Browning that says ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is heaven for?’ And so I certainly do that in my music and my art.
CROSSING THE BRIDGE TO A FURTHER AND MORE HOPEFUL SHORE
“I never allow myself to stay static; my work continually evolves. I push myself to go further than where I am. A lot of my work — particularly after first losing Richard — had him, portraiture-wise, in the piece in many ways. He still pops into my pieces.
But slowly, over many years, with the help of loving and caring friends, especially Daniel Koshelnyk, their piano teacher, Richard’s professional colleague Laura Getty, and Pastor Jim Dyke who spoke at Richard’s funeral, Gordon did return to his studio, and to life. “It is impossible to speak of any work I have done since this time without expressing the importance of Richard’s presence in this journey of painting. He was so much a part of my painting life before his death, and I draw much strength from his memory spiritually.” Even though Gordon works in his studio in silence, he continues to immerse himself in music at home. He has two grand pianos and studies with his piano teacher once a week.
Everything has changed,
“It pleases me to see my work evolve. I wouldn’t be happy putting out work just because somebody thought it would sell. But I push myself — you can take works that are two or three years apart and see quite a giant step in how it’s changed in imagery. I jump back and forth with some figuration in my work, always. “But my present work is leaning more and more abstract. That doesn’t mean you can’t see a form — perhaps a figure, a face or something — in some of the work, that’s always there. But my current trend is, I think, more and more
Gordon uses his 1960 Smith Corona typewriter for all his letters and correspondence.
abstract, which, to me, really adheres to the true definition of Abstract Expressionism, which is allowing yourself the freedom to let whatever happens on the canvas happen, without any sense of representation or limitation. “That’s how I drive myself. I hope that I always have a reservoir of creativity within me that allows it. So far I have. I sometimes think, ‘well maybe this will run out,’ or ‘maybe this will get stale,’ but I haven’t reached that point. And that’s kind of a gift for an octogenarian!” Gordon has kept a journal for 53 years; an autobiographical testament to what he does. “I don’t expect anyone to read it — no one can read my handwriting,” laughed Gordon. “But it’s a discipline area for me. I’ll look back and notice that I always had worries, even when I was very young. I still have worries. I believe things happen in life to cause you worry. So I share them with my diary, and it is part of the narrative of my life, which is a good accompaniment to what I’m doing in art and music.” It can be said that Gordon’s life has
Every Wednesday at noon, Gordon attends church at St. Luke’s to honor his life with Richard. He reads a Bible passage before the priest reads the Holy Gospel and leads the singing of a hymn which he accompanies on the piano.
taken him down many paths; some intended, some destined. But it is his art that lights the road along the way. “My work often speaks of a journey — a passageway leading to a space beyond and always to a more promising destination,” philosophized Gordon. “It is like crossing the bridge to a further and more hopeful shore.” “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.”
A GIFT OF AFFECTION AND REMEMBRANCE “It’s not an easy question; to whom would I entrust my life’s work, with all that goes along with that,” Gordon responded when asked why he made the decision to bequeath his substantial art collection to WMU-Cooley in his estate plan. “There are easily 400-500 pieces of major work — some of them as large as 9-feet by 6 feet and some even larger — most of them framed.” “I reviewed it with my estate attorney,” said Gordon, and I decided that I wanted to give Cooley right of first refusal.”
Gordon uses the same chair in his studio, purchased in Chicago 50 years ago, held together lovingly by duct tape.
Gordon still wears his 1978 Cooley class ring today.
“I have a sense of confidence and trust in Cooley,” answered Gordon. “I know in my heart that Cooley will perpetuate my life’s work with the utmost care and integrity, with the highest possible standard. And that feels good while I’m still non-posthumous.” GORDON BOARDMAN
“Of course I had wonderful experiences with many people from Cooley over the decades,” continued Gordon. “Lots of names come to mind, but when Don LeDuc visited my studio, it must have been in the early 2000s, I was impressed that he took the time to come to Kalamazoo. I told him during his visit that if he saw a painting he would like, I would give it to the law school. So he took me at my word, and he narrowed his choice down. The piece he chose had been in an exhibit in New York City with the Bibro gallery, and it had considerable recognition.” “I had the warm sense that the school was empathetic to my artwork,” said Gordon. “I could have donated to others, but I had such a long-standing relationship with Cooley, and I was much more comfortable with my work staying in Michigan. It made sense to me.”
That original donation to the law school, a large-scale piece Gordon called Trifurcatedly Separate But Equal, still hangs on the same wall of the Lansing campus lobby where the first Cooley Art Unveiling ceremony was held on Feb. 27, 2003. It was, in fact, Gordon’s art and donation that was the spark and inspiration behind Don LeDuc’s idea to formalize the WMU-Cooley Art at Cooley Fund. The plaque describes the law school’s interpretation of the Triptych, where it found three levels of symbolism in the painting; the Constitutional doctrine of separate-but-equal principle, America’s three separate and independent branches of government, and the three Michigan campuses. Find out more about the Art at WMU-Cooley collection by visiting the law school’s official blog page at cooleylawschoolblog.com.
Published on Dec 16, 2016
This issue of Benchmark prominently features our dear friend, alumnus and nationally renowned artist Gordon Boardman, who has made a monumen...