KOKOMO, Ind. — Stuart Green’s career at Indiana University Kokomo comes full circle with a new exhibition at the campus Art Gallery.
Stuart Green: A Retrospective, includes work from his early career when he was teaching, and paintings created after his retirement in 2010.
The day after opening the exhibition, Green discussed his work with about two dozen new media art technology students, walking them through his career and creative process.
“It’s like coming home,” he said. “I spent 39 years of my life working here, I helped design this gallery, and I was its first director. To have a full-blown exhibition of my own is a remarkable feeling.”
He appreciated the chance to host not only a public gallery chat during the opening, but also the session with students. He helped develop the campus’ fine arts degree program, and presented it to the IU Board of Trustees for approval during his tenure, making the meeting even more meaningful to him.
“To have a group of painting students here is fantastic,” he said. “It’s fulfilling to see the growth of the arts on this campus, the growth of the degree, the fact you have art students now being educated by a younger group of faculty, and that I can still be a part of that when I’m no longer in a teaching position.”
While he began his career as an assistant professor of fine arts, he grew into leadership roles, which left him with no time for art. The exhibition features Echoes of the Cyclades, painted in 1995, which would be his last painting until 2011.
“I came to IU Kokomo as an artist, and I retired as an administrator,” he said. “I spent a lot of intervening years here not being an artist. At a given point, I couldn’t even teach classes anymore. It is nice to close that circle.”
Students followed him from that last painting to the west wall, which features Fallen Angels I, his first painting in 16 years.
His plan after retirement was to begin painting again, but it was intimidating to face the canvas at first. He began with a simple sketchbook and Conté crayon.
“I sketched for about a year, and didn’t touch a paintbrush,” he said. “It’s not like riding a bicycle. Skills get rusty. I spent a lot of years thinking about art, but not executing it, watching other artists come up with ideas similar to mine. It just took a while to make that commitment and leap in.”
That opportunity presented itself unexpectedly — he was singing along with a Luciano Pavarotti recording, in the front yard of his Washington D.C. apartment building, when a woman stopped to compliment him. They began talking, and he learned she was also an artist, and owned a building with studio space to rent.
The same day, he wrote a check to rent studio space, moved his materials in, and began work on what became the Fallen Angels series.
“When I did those images, on that particular painting, it was my ‘aha!’ moment,” he said. “The work clicked, the images clicked, and I knew I was back and could do it.”
He shared the process for several of his series, leading up to his most recent work, Venus I, painted in 2017. That work was his first in acrylic, he noted, because you’re never too old to try something new.
Whatever area of art the students choose as their specialty, he told them drawing is an important foundational skill, because it requires focus.
“It’s less important for developing the actual skill of drawing, but it’s very important to learn how to see,” in a world where people rush from thing to thing, concentrating on being useful and trying to get ahead.
“I think you can lose yourself in all this scurrying around just to survive, just to make another dollar, and you’ve traded your life for doing something else. Art is the meditation of paying close attention to something. Drawing starts that meditative process. You look at that object or person, and you have to pay close attention.
“It’s the people who can pay close attention who have the capacity to become artists.”
Stuart Green: A Retrospective, continues through Saturday, October 28, in the Art Gallery, in the IU Kokomo Library Building, 2300 S. Washington St. Admission is free, and free parking is available on campus.
The IU Kokomo Art Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and Fridays.
For more information, visit iuk.edu/gallery.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.