Two exhibitions are set to commemorate the life and work of prominent Southeastern artist and retired longtime Appalachian State University professor, Warren Dennis, who died April 13, 2021.
Father, Grandfather, Artist: A Tribute to Warren Dennis will be held in the Moskowitz Gallery at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone, North Carolina on Friday, July 2 from 6-9 p.m. The exhibit comprises of paintings from the personal collections of family members. On Saturday, July 3 the family plans to receive friends from 11 to 12 p.m. in the Moskowitz Gallery.
Carlton Gallery will also host a reception on Saturday, July 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. to include reminiscence by family and friends that begins at 3 p.m.
The events are opportunities for people to come together and remember Dennis as many people know him in the area, and he’s been a part of the Boone community for a long time. Theses events are open to the public and will follow COVID-19 protocols set by the galleries.
Carlton Gallery, where Dennis has been represented for decades, will also feature a memorial selection of his oil paintings in its Spring Group Exhibition, on view from May 29 to July 15. Carlton Gallery plans to exhibit an eclectic collection of Dennis’ paintings for the foreseeable future.
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve had dear friends of his come in, and I spend time with them and take them through the gallery and show them all of his work we have available,” said Toni Carlton, Director of Carlton Gallery. “It’s friends coming together to view his work and share great memories and stories. It’s been nice to hold that space for people to come anytime and to carry on a beautiful tribute to him through his artistry.”
In 1965, Dennis and his family moved to Boone, North Carolina, where he became a transformative force for the Appalachian State University Department of Art. When he arrived, he was one of only two professors in the department. Dennis served on faculty from 1965 to 1993 and was department chair from 1980 to 1984. His tenure at Appalachian saw burgeoning enrollment and numerous innovations under the leadership of Herbert Wey, whose name graces Wey Hall, the home of the Department of Art since 976.
Carlton shares a very special connection to Dennis’s family as she has known them for a very long time. Dennis was one of Carlton’s professors at Appalachian State University as she took a drawing class with him.
As a professor, Dennis taught art history with a specialization in American art, drawing, painting, and lithography. In addition to teaching on campus, he and his wife Mary Kate organized student art tours to Europe and frequently hosted student groups at Appalachian’s residences in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Dennis’ prime painting years corresponded to the heyday of American Abstract Expressionism and, while he pushed the boundaries of paint on canvas all his life, he was a consummate draftsman who never abandoned the human figure. In a signature style marked by dry wit, Dennis’ paintings capture the humanity and the humility of subjects ranging from simple moments of family life to the great themes of art history, classical music, and Southern literature. Dennis was humble when called an expert on conductor Arturo Toscanini, author William Faulkner, and artist Pablo Picasso, among others.
An active and prolific artist into his nineties, Dennis exhibited widely. With over 60 one-person exhibitions to his credit, his paintings can be found in numerous galleries, museums, and private collections, particularly in the southern United States. Dennis also worked on several special projects, including a mural for Burke Mission Station in Morganton, North Carolina, in September 2001. His work continues to be shown at Carlton Gallery, his longtime representative.
“He was one of my first painters in the gallery in the early 1980s,” Carlton said. “His work is spaced all throughout the gallery in different areas. It’s nice to see him still be so much part of the gallery. Even though he’s not physically with us, his spirit lives through his paintings always, and we’re really grateful to have them.”
Warren Dennis lived in Boone for 49 years before moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 2014 to be closer to family and to better care for his wife Mary Kate, who is living with dementia. As revealed in his hundreds of paintings, family and family life were central to Warren Dennis and the place where he found much of his inspiration. He was the father of four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and is remembered lovingly as a man who cherished each family member, spoiling them as babies and delighting in exposing them to art and culture as they grew older.
Here are photos showcasing a mix of different styles of work Dennis has done over the years: