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
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
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 Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
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 — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
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
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, $5-$7 (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
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
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
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
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
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
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, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102