| Elemore Morgan Jr. on the porch of his studio in 2002
|photo by Terri Fensel|
One morning in 2002, while Elemore Morgan Jr. walked through the paintings he had stored in his studio, he told me how he priced his art — it was based upon the emotional attachment he had for each work. “It’s what it’s going to cost for somebody to take it from me,” he noted. It had nothing to do with the amount of acrylic paints he used, the size of the Masonite on which he painted, the wear and tear on his van to drive to the rice fields he rendered every day, the transportation cost and time to sell a finished piece in New Orleans, or the amount of time it took him to complete it.
It seemed like an arbitrary system. I told him there had to be a better way to come up with a price tag for his work.
He stopped what he was doing, stared at me and asked, “Do you know of a better way?”
When it was put that bluntly, I didn’t, and even if I did, it wouldn’t have mattered. That was Elemore. He loved his art — what he called his obsession — and he made up his own rules as he went along so that he could pursue his art.
On Sunday, May 18, Elemore’s lifelong waltz with art in all its forms came to an end. He died at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore around 5:30 p.m. from complications from heart surgery he underwent in early April. He was 76 years old. As of press time, funeral arrangements for Elemore were pending, but his family had established a memorial fund in his name at UL Lafayette.
Elemore was born in Baton Rouge in 1931. He was the only child of renowned photographer Elemore Morgan Sr. The younger Elemore grew up on his grandfather’s farm, where he used to say he “got a good dose of nature.” He obtained a fine arts degree from LSU in 1952 and then served in the U.S. Air Force as a supply clerk during the Korean War. Under the GI Bill, he attended the Ruskin School of Fine Arts at the University of Oxford in England. He returned to Louisiana, and for 35 years taught art as a UL professor until his retirement in 1998.
He believed in hard work, in showing up every day. If the sun was shining, you could bet that Elemore was in a field somewhere painting, regardless of how hot it might be. He not only believed in hard work, he believed in doing what worked and never cutting corners, doing what the moment required of you.
For more than 20 years, Elemore was represented by Arthur Roger of the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. “It’s a very big blow,” Roger says. “It’s a big loss. There’s not really any other way that I can look at it right now.” He says that the demand for Elemore’s work far outstretched what Elemore was able to produce, and all of the works in his current exhibit, which opened May 3, were sold before they were even hung. “But Elemore would be making his work whether anyone bought it or not,” Roger says. Elemore’s current exhibit has been extended to May 31.
“Without a doubt, we’ve lost one of the most important painters in Louisiana, probably one of the most important painters in Louisiana’s history,” says Rick Gruber, director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. “I think equally important, from our perspective here at the Ogden Musuem, working with New Orleans and Louisiana but also with the larger South, he’s one of the most important painters in the South.”
“One of the themes in our programming is a sense of place — artists and a sense of place,” Gruber adds. “And Elemore embodies that about as clearly as anyone in Louisiana and in the South.” Gruber notes that in returning to Louisiana in ’57, Elemore became “an ambassador, artist, teacher, educator, a mentor to many.” Gruber remembers that after the hurricanes of 2005, Elemore was seemingly at every meeting about hurricane recovery. “Anywhere with anybody who was looking at how to rebuild Louisiana, Elemore seemed to have been there. It was amazing.”
Elemore always stayed true to his uncompromising belief that art and life were inextricably intertwined. In a story I wrote about him for Louisiana Life in 2002, he said, “If you think you want to be an artist, you need to pay attention to that, wherever it may lead you. It may not lead you exactly where you think, but I’m absolutely convinced that you pay attention and trust your own vision wherever it leads you. It is kind of uncertain. But boy, I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t really want to live any other way.”
Contributions to the Elemore Morgan Jr. Memorial Fund can be made to the UL Lafayette Foundation, Office of Development, P.O. Drawer 43410, Lafayette, LA, 70504.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.