Second-time student crafts ceramic pieces


Don Morgan always gravitated toward art.

In 1991, he drew pictures with his grandchildren and noticed how the squiggly lines came together to form shapes and figures. The colors breathed new life into the primitive lines. A smiley face, blades of grass, fingers and a ray of sunshine brought everything together.

So the decision to become an art major came naturally when he first enrolled into University of Memphis, then known as Memphis State University, in 1960.

"I've always done art, and I most enjoy the opportunity the University of Memphis provides me to come on campus and create," Morgan said. "Anything visual."

As many artists quickly discover, providing financially with his career proved to be a challenge. He worked at Quaker Oats in order to support his family.

Retiring in 2008, Morgan, 72, returned to finish the bachelor of art degree he began back in 1960. Morgan is currently classified as a senior, and he has his own studio in the art building next to Jones Hall.

His age does not hinder his abilities, he said, since he has remained in top physical shape by running an average of six miles every day since 1968. The healthier he remains, the longer he can continue creating.

"Running allows me a time to ponder things, whether they be creative or living." Morgan said.

Many aspects of art interest Morgan. He doesn't claim any one favorite medium, but his specialties include sculpture, ceramics and painting. Upon graduating, Morgan doesn't anticipate that his degree will change his status as an artist.

"When I graduate, I plan to keep doing like I'm doing," Morgan said. "My degree may not change anything, I've just never had my undergrad degree. I was retired and looking for different opportunities."

These simplistic ideals apply to his personal life as well. Morgan strives to become a minimalist in this increasingly tech savvy country. He said the world does not change the relevance of art, only the capabilities of the artists.

"The United States is quickly becoming a place where you don't own, you just have access." Morgan said.

During his own time, Morgan adds to his studio's collection. Morgan uses a no-subject approach, which means he creates using pure imagination. The elimination of the subject allows Morgan's pieces to have a more personal feel to them. He eagerly displayed his last piece, a wooden griffin. The rugged griffin stands with its hind legs kicked back. Its bare wooden surface reflects his minimalistic habits.

"You're always most proud of your latest piece," Morgan said.

Morgan said he loves the atmosphere created by the students at the University of Memphis. He said the industrial arts students have fully accepted him into their program, and their collective creative energy serves as a source of inspiration for all.

"Being on campus with the best teaching staff and the energy of the students creates a wonderful environment," Morgan said. "We're one big family here."

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