USM alumnus to receive Lifetime Achievement at 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards

McGowin studied, what was called, a degree in commercial art during his time at Southern Miss....
McGowin studied, what was called, a degree in commercial art during his time at Southern Miss. He notes that he is grateful for having found an environment that allowed him to develop his talent.(University of Southern Mississippi)
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 12:25 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Mississippi Arts Commission partners with the Office of the Governor each year to honor individuals and organizations for their work in the artistic disciplines, arts-based community development and/or arts patronage in Mississippi through the Governor’s Arts Awards.

During the 35th edition of the awards, painter and sculptor and a University of Southern Mississippi Art and Design Alumnus, Ed McGowin, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement is the most meaningful award I have ever received,” said McGowin, “To be among a list of artists that includes B.B. King, Leontyne Price and Eudora Welty among many others is a very humbling and extremely gratifying experience.”

The 2023 Governor’s Arts Awards recipients will be recognized during a ceremony at the Two Mississippi Museums in downtown Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at 6 p.m. A public reception will take place before the ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

“We are very excited to honor this excellent group of artists from our state,” said Marie Sanderson, board chair of Mississippi Arts Commission. “These recipients have made lasting impacts in their fields and Mississippi. We look forward to honoring them at the Two Mississippi Museums in February.”

A native of Hattiesburg, McGowin received his Bachelor of Arts degree at USM in 1961 before pursuing a Master of Arts degree at the University of Alabama in 1964.

McGowin studied, what was called, a degree in commercial art during his time at Southern Miss. He notes that he is grateful for having found an environment that allowed him to develop his talent.

“I am very grateful to USM to have had a place to grow and experiment until I found something I could do well,” said McGowin. “The technical facility required for producing competent work gave me a good background for what I wanted to do later as an artist.”

McGowin recalls being able to take advantage of the opportunities created by a professor who was instrumental in his development.

“Professor Vernon Merrifield was an exceptional teacher who was a very encouraging and helpful mentor. I was one of many students he created opportunities for which served as a stepping stone in finding our way,” McGowin said.

Having participated in more than 90 one-person and 400 group exhibits across six continents, McGowin is recognized internationally as a multi-media artist.

In 1969, McGowin had his name changed legally 12 times in the Washington, D.C. court system, and he continues to make art for those 12 names. Through his Ed McGowin, Name Change project, he has been able to create works that go beyond traditional pieces.

“I have built my career around trying to make anything I want to make,” said McGowin. “I most enjoy having to work our problems to make something and let that take me where I have never been. That process, in part, was one of the reasons for starting the Name Change project.”

McGowin says that creating works for all of his personas will always be an ongoing process, except for one.

“For now, making thing for Thornton Dossett is a preoccupation,” said McGowin. “Thorton’s work is mostly about race and how the African American society and the white society contribute to Southern culture. The good and bad and how that combines... Additionally, Alva Fost is creating some breakthrough work.”

“It is possible that McDuff is dead, as nothing has been produced for him in decades.”

McGowin’s work is in the permanent collection of major museums, including the Mississippi Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others. He also has corporate collections in AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, McKinsey and Co., American Medical Association, Prudential Life Insurance and Goldman Sacks.

He has crafted more than 20 public commissions, with the most recent being one by the Palm Beach, Fla. symphony to create 10 paintings to be shown during the presentation of The Shoe Bird, a composition by Mississippi composer Samuel Jones, based on the book by Eudora Welty.

Currently, McGowin is a professor emeritus at the State University of New York. He lives and works with his wife, Claudia DeMonte, in New York City and Miami, Fla.

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