| 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.
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?