KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Once headed for a landfill, dozens of paintings created by a former Western Michigan University art professor are getting a new life as part of the university’s collection.
Forty of Dwayne Lowder’s paintings were donated to WMU and are now on display at the Richmond Center for Visual Arts. Indra Lacis, the director of exhibits, says other works are also on loan from private collectors so visitors can see Lowder’s vast array of talents.
“This exhibition is in some way dominated by his paintings, but Dwayne Lowder also worked in stained glass, he was a sculptor, he was trained in photography,” Lacis said.
Lowder was part of the WMU faculty from 1966 to 1982. He retired to rural Virginia, where he ran an orchid farm and continued to create art.
John M. Carney, a friend and former WMU colleague, shared a campus workspace with Lowder for many years, becoming acquainted with the artist, who mostly kept to himself.
“You could get to know him up to a certain level and there was always a little bit of distance,” Carney said.
After Lowder died in 2018, Carney learned that a realtor, tasked with selling the home and clearing the possessions inside after an estate sale, had discovered the artwork throughout the house and set the paintings aside in the garage.
With no provisions in the will for what would happen to the paintings, the realtor eventually brought them to an art professor at Radford University, who was not permitted by the university to keep them on-site because of concerns about a lack of space and potential fire code violations.
So Carney took possession of the paintings and made arrangements with WMU to donate 40 to the university’s collection.
“For all of us who knew him, he was our Leonardo Da Vinci,” Carney said. “I don’t care what it was, whatever he did, it was fabulous.”
The works would have been thrown away if no one came forward to claim them.
“It’s an incredible feeling of relief and I think it would have been just heartbreaking had these paintings not seen the light of day,” Lacis said.