Robert McGowan 1947-2012

photograph by Truusy Lory

Some people accomplish so many things that they are hard to categorize.

Such a man was Robert McGowan, who passed away November 16th after a long battle with cancer. Some will no doubt remember him as an artist — both an incredibly accomplished painter, sculptor, and potter. Others will pay tribute to his work as the founder of the Center for Contemporary Art. Others know him as the founder of the art publication Number. Others, his work as a leader of the whole South Main artistic renaissance. Still others will point to his essays, short stories, and novels.

Perhaps, for our purpose, "visionary" will suffice.

Writer Michael Clark profiled the remarkable life and work of Robert McGowan in the current issue of Memphis magazine, in a feature story titled, appropriately enough, "Going Ungently into the Night."

In a recent email to the author of that piece, McGowan expressed one concern: “My great worry now is that I’ll croak before I see the majority of my writing in print and before I can do more of it. I have a novel in progress, but because of my condition, the horrible zonked-itude-osity-ism-ness that characterizes my life now, I simply cannot do any writing at present. It takes far more energy and concentration than I have . . .”

His work lives on.

His good friend Bert Sharpe told us, "He will be missed by many, but his art and writing, and the impact of his civic activism, remain as his legacy."

McGowan's family received visitors Sunday at Bert Sharpe and Patti Lechman's art gallery at 344 South Main, which is currently showcasing a retrospective of his work.


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The “Memphis” magazine staff blog

About This Blog

“901” is the current affairs blog compiled by the staff of Memphis magazine, where readers can find breaking-news tidbits relating to all facets of life in the Bluff City. 

Edited by Shara Clark, Contemporary Media’s special projects editor, this blog’s regular participants include long-time Memphis editors such as Michael Finger, Jackson Baker, Frank Murtaugh, and Kenneth Neill. “901” also includes regular contributions from Inside Memphis Business staffers Richard Alley and Eileen Townsend, as well as the staff of the Memphis Flyer.

Every Thursday our Calendar Editor, Julie Ray, posts her picks for the weekend's events and activities.

“901” is the place where Memphis readers can “dial in” to find fresh reporting of recent developments in our city’s political, economic, and cultural life.

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