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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

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

“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 my mother in my home in East “Even though I can’t say that Lansing until she died from law has pervaded my artwork, I think it’s there in some degree,” cancer. My aunt and my father lived with me too. I also had a shared Gordon on whether his brother who was ill, and I lost legal background influences him prematurely. I had planned his work today. “The sense to care for my aunt in East of organizing my thoughts in Lansing until she died, but she terms of what I’m going to do imagery-wise gives me a different insisted that I needed to go. She told me, ‘You move and find your sensibility because of my 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 Kalamazoo.” a different form of language. I 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 Despite his heavy family of Cooley,” recalled Gordon. school, and I loved language. I years – no vacations, nothing. responsibilities, Gordon managed When I reminisce with Don feel the law degree enhanced my I won’t say I could ever do it to keep up with his painting. (LeDuc) when we have lunch, 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 been able to establish a I had wonderful professors, not people in the legislature, not the pursued it and achieved it.” good rapport with a New York the least of whom were Don least of them Governor Milliken, gallery (Denise Bibro Fine Art), LeDuc and John Rooney.” For Gordon though, it was about whom I knew and for whom I and I’ve been with them 20 his art. About how precious and served on a special Financial 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 life is the impetus for my art, my a big help to have law as part two decades older than the interested in my work. I had a art for my life,” he declared in of my knowledge, along with a average student, he was not good rapport with the Kalamazoo the 1995 Benchmark article. sense of academia. I also can 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. liked my work. I had won awards. beyond his love of art. 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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Benchmark | Winter 2016