Art exhibit features works of former gallery owner

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Paintings reflecting an eclectic mix of media and subjects line the walls of the Vernon County Arts Council's gallery in Nevada. The paintings are part of a temporary exhibit featuring the works of Mike Morris, Fort Scott. Photos by Lynn A. Wade/Herald-Tribune

Nevada, Mo. -- His passion for art evolved at the bottom of the ocean. Well, maybe not all the way at the bottom, but certainly under its surface. Mike Morris, Fort Scott, began drawing an painting in earnest as a way to pass the time aboard a submarine on which he served while in the U.S. Navy.

Watercolors were the medium of choice, then, because supplies were small, light and portable. "I could sit on my bunk and paint," Morris said.

From there he branched into many other media as an artist. In college, he'd taken pottery classes, but the drawing and painting turned out to be his preferred mode of expression, and many paintings of people, places and things have been created along the way.

"I've done a lot of different things," he said.

Inspiration for Morris can come from just about anywhere. "Sometimes I'll see something I like along the road, and I'll paint that. I do a lot from photographs," he said.

In fact, he's even painted one home in Adrian without ever having seen it in person -- he painted a farmhouse for a family from a photograph.

He's been working on creating more works that feature people. Veiwers seem to like them, he said, agreeing that facial expressions seem to spark a more immediate and clear connection with many viewers than other subjects might inspire.

Nevertheless, architechtural paintings remain some of his favorites, and he has painted several structures, some for his own enjoyment and others because they were commissioned by others.

One of his most recent works is a photograph he has painted, making it a surreal view that leaves a visual impression far different from the impression that would have been experienced in viewing the original photograph.

After retiring from the Navy, he and wife Beth moved to Washington state, then to Tuscon, Ariz. Morris is a native of Bartlesville, Okla., and on the way to that area on a vacation, he and his wife came across the Vernon-Bourbon county area, and decided it would be a nice place to live. They bought a home and settled in Fort Scott.

A face that's familiar to many in Fort Scott -- he decided to close his gallery, the Wall Street Gallery in Fort Scott, due to health issues -- Morris has brought his work to Nevada, where a an exhibit is in place in the Vernon County Arts Council's gallery, located on the lower level of the Carnegie Building, at the corner of Ash and Austin, Nevada.

He shook his head almost undetectably, then said, of the gallery's closing, "I have more time to paint, now," and smiled.

Networking with the Bourbon and Vernon county arts councils has been rewarding, he noted.