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In Memoriam: Russell T. Gordon, 1936-2013

December 17, 2013

In Concert (2007)
Russell T. Gordon: In Concert (2007), 4' x 9' - oil and acrylic on canvas

Russell T. Gordon, a painting and drawing faculty member in the Department of Studio Arts from 1974 to1997, died at home in early November of cancer.

Born in Philadelphia and educated at Temple University (BFA) and the University of Wisconsin (double MA/MFA), Gordon was a prolific artist throughout his career. His work, shown in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions, can now be seen in in many museum and corporate collections in both Canada and the United States.

Robert Parker, who served as dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts from 1984 to 1994, spoke fondly of his former colleague:

“My first introduction to Russell was in a meeting of the Faculty Personnel Committee. I knew of him from Dean Al Pinksy’s description of him as a ‘young Turk’ in the faculty. Russell, along with faculty members Reesa Greenberg, Judy Kelly, John Locke and Tom Waugh, were the recently hired members that challenged the then-current thinking in the faculty. Dean Pinsky’s description was given with a sense of pride of these individuals for what they brought to the Faculty. Russell kept this attitude through the years that I knew him. Challenging, but with the all too familiar quiet manner.

Russell T. Gordon at work in studio Russell T. Gordon at work in studio

“Over the years Russell and I would work together on faculty committees, where he was always that voice which could make sense out of the confusion of fuzzy thinking. I remember his friend Francine, our occasional lunches and dinners, his exhibitions, his unsuccessful attempt to grow dreadlocks. I remember him as a real presence in the faculty and in the Montreal art community. I remember him as a friend. I have not seen Russell in many years but this I can say: he was a person worth knowing, because he had worth. RIP Russell.”

Maurice Forget, chair of the Fine Arts Advisory Board and curator of a 2010 exhibition of select pieces from Gordon’s collection entitled Over Easy – Métaphores en series, commented on the depth, layering and, ultimately, joyfulness of Gordon’s body of work in a catalogue he edited for the event:

“Despite its rich layering, the Russell Gordon work product of the last 40 years is relatively simple to read, because it reflects his own social, intellectual and moral development as a man over that time, with all of his characteristics — most notably being an American black man — he searches for those universal truths which best express his own perspective on humanity. The phenomena absorbed by the artist — and the resulting metaphors susceptible of being followed in his work — reflect with a certain linearity the events in the artist’s own life. In breaking the bonds which tied him to the poorest parts of Philadelphia, to a family which had no understanding, let alone respect, for the activities of the intellect or the beauties of art, and to an American society in its most conservative pre-Kennedy mode, Gordon has sought and achieved in his art a freedom originating with redemption from the clichés of race and social standing, working towards a luminous vision of human life. There is a celebratory current in Gordon’s art.”

Gordon’s ashes will be buried at Stonington, Maine, where he found both peace and inspiration. 

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