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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Upcoming ODU Art Exhibit to Shed Light on Extraordinary Career of Mr. Imagination

"Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination," an exhibition of works by the late artist (born Gregory Warmack, 1948-2012), will be on view in the Self-Taught Gallery at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at Old Dominion University from March 29 to Sept. 28.

Warmack, who died in 2012 while in hospice-care in Atlanta, GA, left behind one of the most impressive bodies of work created by a self-taught artist during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Mr. Imagination's public career spanned more than three decades and his works are contained in many private and public collections in the United States and abroad, most notably Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian American Art Museum and Halle St. Pierre, in Paris.

The ODU exhibition sheds light on the extraordinary career of Mr. Imagination and his triumph over tragedy.

As an artist, Mr. Imagination viewed the destruction wrought by two fires as a material transformation of his art and possessions, and a spiritual transformation of his life and creative force. He allowed these experiences to expand his world view rather than to constrict his creative spirit with despair over the loss of beloved pets, his art works, and those collected from other artists as well as the multitude of books and memorabilia he amassed. Mr. Imagination had a passion for preserving the history of things he deemed materially and spiritually valuable that otherwise would be lost to humanity. Every environment he lived and worked in was a shrine inhabited by altars of and to his work. He ultimately saw himself as a prophet and those who knew Mr. Imagination considered him a healer of great charisma and generosity. This exhibition is a tribute to his indomitable spirit as well as an investigation of an artist's creative journey.

"Fire! The Resurrection of Mr. Imagination" is comprised of approximately 85 pieces organized as burnt works that survived the fires of 1982 and 2008, as well as post-fire pieces the artist created in response to the disasters. The works on view are testimony to the great diversity of his output. Site specific installations and much heralded architectonic thrones of oversized scale are replaced in the ODU exhibition by two child-sized chairs decorated baroquely in shining bottle caps and cloth. Works such as Mr. Imagination's signature bottle cap, paint brush, broom and plaster figures of heads, people, fish, a large man-lizard and delicate shining flowers made from elements as diverse as plaster, tin, straws and plastic tubing and wire are also featured. Inclusion of wire mesh guitars and dresses show a delicate aesthetic and creative range. An altar from his last home is a major component of the exhibition installation. Mr. Imagination's art works, both large and small, are essentially composed of the detritus of everyday life-a triumph of the artist's restless eye, reclaiming spirit and deep humanity. Present as well are endless portraits of the artist, as his face graces nearly every work.

The Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries are located at 4509 Monarch Way, Norfolk, VA, 23517 in University Village on the campus of Old Dominion University. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 p.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Parking is available in the 45th Street Garage.

For more information, call 757-683-6271 or visit the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries website. Contact Ramona Austin, curator of the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries, at 757-683-6272. Photographs by Anne Peterson.

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