Grasping the Earth’s natural essence: A Q&A with Procter

John Dillon/ Senior PhotographerJohn Dillon/ Senior Photographer

Kelsey Richardson

Ken Procter, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, enriches Ennis Hall Art Gallery with his nature-inspired series “Journeys.” The exhibition remains open to the public until Sept.11. and displays the evolution of 30 years’ worth of Procter’s artwork. The gallery’s pieces resonate his unique representations of nature through symbolism, spirituality and imagination.


colonnade: At what moment in your life did you start creating visual art?

ken procter: Of course we all made art when we were kids; art class was a favorite.  I got more serious about art in the last year of high school, but it was still one of several subjects that were potential college majors.  By the second year of college, I was fully committed to studying art.            

colonnade: Why did you leave your job as an art professor?

procter: I moved into administration at my previous institution, first because I was talked into it, and then because I found I could make a positive difference to the department and the institution. Going into administration need not mean leaving the role of professor completely behind. Department chairs are still professors, and my previous institution, deans were expected to teach a course each semester. That was a smaller school. Here, teaching is not required, but I enjoy teaching and have taught several courses in the last few years.

colonnade: What made you decide to display “Journeys” at GC?

procter: This exhibit was put together at the invitation of Professor Carlos Herrera, who directs the art gallery and the museum studies program. Discussions began a couple of years ago.

colonnade: Are you currently working on any other pieces or series? If so, what?

procter: I almost always have a couple of powdered charcoal drawings in progress. I just finished a small one; a larger drawing is at a middle stage of development.

colonnade: What is your preferred medium?

procter: I’ve worked in lots of different media and techniques — some not represented in this exhibit. I’ve changed media and technique when new explorations and ideas call for something different — medium and technique are essential elements of the final effect and content of a work of art. Right now, I mainly work in powdered charcoal, but I have plenty of ideas for paintings waiting for me.

colonnade: Which artists inspired your style of art in “Journeys?”  

procter: Many artists have grabbed my attention over the years. I’ll name a couple who might not be as well known by our students: Antoni Tapies and Chaim Soutine.

colonnade: The use of color varies from piece to piece in “Journeys.” What goal do you have in mind when using certain colors for particular pieces?  

procter: Color in landscape relates to light and atmosphere. When I painted outdoors on location, I learned very quickly to paint the sky first because the light of the sky affected the color of everything else, even the colors of shadows. Color is also essential to setting a mood.

colonnade: The use of manholes/drainage pipes seem to be a reoccurrence in a couple of pieces. What do they symbolize and what inspired you to include them?

procter: Manholes and drains are part of how we manage water. They are everywhere, so I make use of them. They are holes in the earth, like openings into caves — there is a lot of symbolism associated with caves. By the way, years ago, with some buddies, I clambered through a few wild caves. It was quite an experience, and verged on the mystical at times.

colonnade: What methods are used when you recreate a natural setting? Do you paint directly outside, take a photo of the scene for reference or rely on memory?
procter: I almost never work from photographs — they just don’t have the kind of information I need. I need to work from my experience of nature, so I rely on memory enhanced by imagination in creating a sense of place.

John Dillon/ Senior Photographer

John Dillon/ Senior Photographer

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