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Fathers and sons, an artistic life at UUCWI Gallery of Art in Freeland
Artistic lessons learned from fathers reveal themselves in their sons.
The artwork of two fathers and their sons will be exhibited at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island Gallery of Art in its next show, “Father/Son Art Exhibit.”
The show opens today, and an artists’ reception is 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, in the Freeland meeting hall’s gallery.
Featured artists include bronze sculptor Ron Ward and his son Johnathan Ward, a metal artist. The other father-and-son art duo is photographer Leonard Jacob Good and his dad, painter Leonard Phelps Good, now deceased.
Good the elder was a painter of some renown who had a long and fruitful career as an educator of art and as a professional artist. Leonard Phelps Good became a professor of art at the University of Oklahoma, where he had studied art, and later, at the University of Wisconsin and Drake University in Iowa.
A book by Andrew L. Phelan titled “Uncommonly Good,” reveals the 50 years of Good senior’s life as a painter and teacher, with pictures of more than 40 of his paintings, as well as drawings, photographs and cartoons, some of which will appear in this show.
Good studied with painter Jean Charlot, the French painter and illustrator who spent many years living and working in Mexico. Subsequently, Good and his wife Nancye became close to Charlot and his family. The couple traveled to Mexico in 1936 where they met Charlot’s friends, the famous Diego Rivera and the iconic Frida Kahlo, among other painters, and also Emilio Amero of the Mexican Ministry of Education Murals.
But although his father and mother were part of an extraordinary world of artists, the son didn’t think his life unique.
“It was all normal for me,” he said.
The younger Good, a popular semi-retired teacher of science and photography on the island, shows not only an enormous respect for the artistic accomplishments of his father, but also remembers him as a great dad, too.
“He was a great teacher. He was very sensitive to other people,” Good said.
Ironically, the same thing could be said of this Good son, whose famous model- rocket-building camp has local youths blasting off to get in line for the next one. Good has the gentle nature and science-savvy mind of a talented child educator, and though he doesn’t consider himself an artist, his photos show a teacher’s sponge-like sensitivity to the world.
Good said he’s had a camera in hand since about the age of 11, and is a dedicated film photographer, though his family recently gave him a digital camera.
He taught photography at Skagit Valley College for seven years, and at Whidbey Island Academy, the Cedar School and to homeschoolers through Oak Harbor Home Connections.
He said his goal was to teach “pure photography,” unhampered by all the chemicals that go with it.
He’s drawn to portraiture, and has gathered for this show some of what he’s taken over a lifetime that characterize his life as son, father and friend.
Bronze sculptor Ron Ward is pure dad through and through when he speaks with high praise of his son, Johnathan.
“He started out in a tent in our back yard 10 or 12 years ago with the vision that he was going to be an artist, instead of working for Western Washington University,” Ron Ward said.
“What a good choice he made! You can see that vision in his earliest work. I am very proud of him and his work.”
Ward the younger designs and creates fine-art pieces, as well as functional art for home and garden. To paraphrase a tagline for Johnathan Ward, if you can think it up and he can put the design to paper, then he can make it for you.
Materials he uses in his work include new and recycled steel, forged objects, found objects, cast cement, wood and glass. He turns them into railings, arbors, trellises, obelisks, weathervanes, tables, chairs, mirrors, beds, sconces, lanterns and pot racks.
His dad said he works constantly and travels to arts-and-crafts fairs throughout the Northwest. The elder Ward once traveled the arts-and-crafts fair circuit with his young family, selling handmade wooden toys, and he’s almost overwhelmed when he sees the list of fairs his son and daughter-in-law travel to on the artist’s Web site, click here.
“I get very tired,” he said.
Johnathan’s work ethic takes after that of his dad, a self-taught sculptor with a prolific output.
Ward’s work begins mostly in clay wax and then is cast in bronze. He creates pieces that run the gamut from whimsical creatures or wildlife to those that reflect a deeper interpretation of the human condition.
“I always wanted to follow a different drummer,” Ward said.
“I heard the drumming in the distance, but it took me almost 40 years to have that courage.”
Ward said he has always found great delight and inspiration in his family, who often serve as the subjects for his work.
“My first sculpture was one of my granddaughter’s laughing face. I had to capture that joy in something more than a photograph,” he said.
He finds great pleasure from the process that allows him to share his vision through sculpting.
The father/son art show is on display at the UUCWI Gallery of Art through May and June.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island is at 20103 Highway 525, a mile north of Freeland.