McGowan Sculptures and Moodie Photographs are the new exhibitors at the Morton Museum of Collierville History.
While the art will take center stage, sculptor Ellen McGowan is the true star of the show.
At 96 years old, she is still working on her art, commissioning pieces to art collectors and even celebrities including Bette Midler and former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter, and telling stand-up worthy jokes.
“This is old lady traveler, which is me,” McGowan says while pointing to one of her pieces and giving a personal endorsement for Viking Cruises.
She has a story behind every piece in the exhibit. The most colorful pieces were the garden fairies, which were colorful according to McGowan, because they’re fairies, of course. (McGowan is pictured above with the “Garden Fairies.”) Many pieces in the exhibit are an earthy, natural brown – a likely influence from her short time in El Paso as a child.
“There were lots of Mexican families in our community. We made little pots, and I was learning Spanish, and I just loved it. But then we moved to Chicago. I liked the weather much better in El Paso,” said McGowan.
Her mother was an opera singer, and while they were all originally from west Tennessee, McGowan spent some time as a child moving around for her mother’s work. McGowan ended up back in west Tennessee, where she still resides. There are likely a few Collierville Elementary alumni who remember Mrs. McGowan who taught second grade for 12 years. After her teaching career, she devoted her time to her art.
“My mother wanted me to be an opera singer, but I couldn’t sing,” McGowan says. She did learn to play the piano, which she still plays every day. “It helps to keep your mind sharp.”
Her mind certainly is sharp, and her creative genes are undoubtably strong – even if she isn’t a singer.
The artistic talent in the McGowan family continues to be passed on, as her great granddaughter, Jordan Moodie, has her photography on display in conjunction with McGowan’s work.
Moodie is a fashion and portrait photographer in North Carolina and a recent graduate of Appalachian State University.
The family celebrated the opening on Friday at the Morton Museum, 196 Main Street.
If you cannot make it Friday, the exhibit will be on display until March 21. The Morton Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. through 4 p.m.