To distill the essence of local painter Michael Poorman's recent work is to retrace the artist's own 40-plus-year journey of collecting, discarding, incorporating, dismissing yet always embracing the world of the creative process.
Not easily discernible, Poorman's message of universalism, unity and a kind of mystic clarity reveals itself only after the viewer seeps himself in the rich hues and subtle shades of his expressionist ink and oil pastel pieces. Helpful clues are revealed in the familiarity that comes from knowing the 60-year-old, who spent several years honing his photographic skills before returning to his first loves of drawing and painting.
His works have been and are featured at the 1911 Gallery, Castle Gallery and Artlink among other venues although frankly they deserve an even wider audience and acceptance, i.e. read "Note to FWMA acquisition committee."
Poorman's been "practicing" his craft for more than 40 years, supporting himself along the way for the most part as an architectural draftsman. Even in this "day job" he has built a solid reputation as one of the few experts in producing hand renderings of proposed projects, usually on a strict deadline.
As one prominent local architect and long-time user of his services relates:
"He's simply awesome. His work is super. Whether he whips out a hand rendering with magic markers, colored pencils or ink, his output is of the highest quality.
"He is such a nice fellow too, easily one of the most popular people in the business. That, and because he is so meticulous, he's an easy target for our practical jokes. It's not uncommon to sneak into his office when he's away and sign a drawing, maybe a couple of times, then wait to see if he catches it. Of course it works the other way too. Like feigning criticism and telling him the piece isn't good enough to usurp credit for. In either case he has a great sense of humor and everyone recognizes his immense talent."
In his current showing at the 1911 Gallery, Poorman offers us a selection of oil pastel and ink pieces. These delightful, upbeat renderings, blend a pallet of orchids, oranges, yellows, golds, and reds. They are, for the most part, friendly pieces, reminiscent of Hans Hoffmann's colorist ventures from the late 1950s.
Like certain of his musical idols from the same period - Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Cage - Poorman's recent works are a model of restraint, where the "less is more" theory has established dominion.
With his Homage to John Cage, Poorman fuses his deep and abiding interest in music with multihued variations. As in Cage's famous work Silence (the book and the score), he succeeds in playing a muted timbre. On a defined and distinctly vertical staff, he scores his lyrics atop one another. The colors cascade like a lighted water fountain.
In contrast, the surfaces of his Comix series are less contained. There, the subtle primary tones are freed to mix with one another. Knocked down in their intensity, the resultant colors churn and go awash like those spilling from beached waves.
David Krouse, gallerist at the 1911 Gallery, will also talk to you about Poorman's sophisticated composition and his use of color and musical themes.
"I find in his work an honesty and exceptional quality that is so strong, not just among local artists but anyone working anywhere these days. He's a hero of mine and I'm not embarrassed to say that."
' Poorman's minimalist works can't be deconstructed to a means of message bearer. Whatever his scripts set out to convey, they ring with elegance, echoing Paul Valery's quip: "I stop saying in order to make."
"I'm not certain why I chose oil pastels," explained Poorman. "It was really a kind of experimental thing. But using these sticks - a kind of cross between chalk and crayon -- forces me to work considerably slower than if I were applying paint with a brush. As it turns out that's been a good thing."
After enjoying a brief but intense period of recognition in high school at North Side, Poorman studied under Noel Dusenchon, Don Kruse, Russ Oettle and George McCullough at the old Fort Wayne Art School. From there Poorman moved on to the John Herron Art School in Indianapolis before ending up in San Francisco in the early 1960s with a family. To support them he managed a string of movie houses, which gave him ample time to see (sometimes over and over again) lots of first-run and not-so-first-run films.
"I appreciate the training and life education I got from that group at the Art School and at Herron," explained Poorman, "but I have to say that it was a trip to a San Francisco Museum and a confrontation with Robert Rauschenberg's Canyon that really affected me.
"Since high school I had been a subscriber to the 'Evergreen Review,' and I was familiar with the work of the New York School. Painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem deKooning, Franz Kline excited something in me, but when I discovered Canyon and some of Rauschenberg's other pieces along with Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Jack Tworkov, it was an awakening."
Rauschenberg's combine Canyon was created in 1959. It combines fabric, cardboard, paper, photographs, metal, paint and other elements with collage work and several striking 3D elements - namely, a stuffed bald eagle perched on a box and a suspended pillow. The piece exemplifies Rauschenberg's theory about everyday objects as art and has become a high water mark in the modern art continuum.
The NY School and abstract expressionism had for the most part held sway over not only modern art but in academic circles as well. However during the late 50s other artists and musicians were independently throwing away the burden of angst and seriousness and the existentialism that emerged seems very much with us today.
Back in San Francisco and without a proper studio to work in, Poorman fell back on his other passion, photography.
"It was partly taking photos in a great arena, like San Francisco, and it was also a means to meet others," said Poorman. "But eventually I was nailed by a friend who told me that my camera - that contraption - was hardly a substitute for my painting and drawing. That challenge haunted me for years until I found a reason to pick up my pencils again."
Frame and field held sway over Poorman's eye for several years, including his return to Fort Wayne. He worked as a professional photographer, covering weddings and other events, using his earnings to bolster his tools, i.e. one wedding equals a flash. Another earns special lighting. Some portraits got him a better light meter, etc.
As it turned out it was the most sublime of reasons that prompted Poorman to re-embrace his art.
"A friend was about to have a birthday, and she wanted a map as a gift. That was too easy, so I got the map, then opened my pencil box and began to create a piece over it. She got her present, but I think it was three months after her birthday."
Forever the collector (some would say archivist of film and music), Poorman remains a witness to the shifting sensibility in all the arts during his life. A student and collector of popular music, he heard Perry Como, Elvis and the Platters like his fellow high school chums, but he also listened to Bo Diddely and the mainly 'race' rhythm and blues tunes on WLAC-AM out of Nashville. There he heard, only on clear nights, not Pat Boone but Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Etta James.
Cruising for burgers and chasing poodle skirts between football and track practice was the norm (Poorman was an integral part of North Side's state track titles under the legendary Rollo Chambers). J.C. Whitney catalogs were hot topics, nonetheless he also found time to discover Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane before it was cool.
In an era dominated by Norman Vincent Peale, Vance Packard and Ayn Rand, Poorman sought relative relief in reading Kerouac, Ginsburg, Snyder and Ferlinghetti. To counter-balance Bishop Sheen he studied Alan Watts and Cage.
While the Hollywood Technicolor fare of Pillow Talk and Rio Bravo drew friends to the movies, Poorman found solace in the grainy black and white French New Wave cinema of Goddards Breathless, Truffant's 400 Blows and Fellini's La Dolce Vita.
Ultimately Poorman found a balance and has built upon it.
In his "day job" Poorman creates practical objects. At his "night gig" he produces useless things as a compensation for not having worked and made something useful. We accept these gifts because they are ultimately beautiful, interesting, furtive and most genuinely worthy of our attention.
Poorman's current work is a part of the 1911 Gallery exhibition lasting through January. He's there along with Suzanne Galazka, Michael Rader, Tim Brombleoe, David Birkley and Richard Fizer plus David Krouse.
by David Tanner
Friday, April 28
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Concordia Comedy Festival — Concordia Lutheran High School presents a showing of comedy films from middle and high school students, 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, Room 101, Neff Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 483-1102
Tapestry: A Day for You — Day of inspiration, renewal and education for women in all stages of life with keynote speaker Ann Curry, 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 28, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $75, 483-1111
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Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Blooze Faktor — Blues at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
Chris Worth & Company — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 557-1563
Classic Voice — Variety at The Venice Restaurant, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, (260) 482-1618
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 665-3922
Expanding Man — Variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
G-Money Band — Blues at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Hubie Ashcraft & Travis Gow — Country at Billy's Downtown Zulu, Monroeville, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 623-3583
The Illegals — Rock at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 483-5526
IPFW Bands & Choirs w/Fort Wayne Children's Choir — Classical at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at American Legion Post 241, Waynedale, 8:30-11:30 p.m., no cover, 747-7851
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Rebecca Rego — Americana/country at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
Secret Mezzanine — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 432-8966
String Theory — Acoustic variety at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 260-745-3369
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
Trichotomous Hippopotamus w/Trackless, John Fishell — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 267-5303
The Why Store — Rock at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, (260) 387-5063
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Big Dawg Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Bucca Karaoke w/Ashley — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055
DJ dance party — at Rum Runners, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., ,
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Tap Haus, New Haven, 9 p.m., no cover, 493-6622
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Scott — Variety at JR's Pub, Leo, 9 p.m., no cover, 627-2500
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke w/DJ Chuck — Variety at DW Bar & Grill, Churubusco, 10 p.m., no cover, 693-8172
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at Portside Pizza, Columbia City, 9 p.m., no cover, 691-3333
Karaoke — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Karaoke — Variety at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m., no cover, 488-3344
Karaoke — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Karaoke — Karaoke at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Karaoke at Backway Lounge, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 665-5081
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at 4 Crowns, Auburn, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 925-9805
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Kevin — Variety at Danny's Italian Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 484-4444
SureShot Karaoke w/David — Variety at The Green Frog Inn, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 426-1088
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Bottle and Bottega, Fort Wayne, 8:30-10:30 p.m., no cover, 494-1020
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
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Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3, Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568