Eastern Shore artist Eric Dennard was 51

November 23, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Eric Dennard, an Eastern Shore artist who continued to work in spite of a terminal illness, died last Friday of liver cancer at his home in western Dorchester County off Taylor's Island. He was 51.

Known for his large, colorful, three-dimensional wooden wall sculptures, he was recently the subject of a Sunday Sun profile.

Diagnosed with cancer last December, he continued to work with the help of two other local artists, Madeleine Shinn and Robert Murphy. The effort resulted in a new body of work that was shown in October at the Easton Academy of Arts.

Ms. Shinn, a graphic artist from Cambridge, translated Mr. Dennard's sketches into blueprints from which Mr. Murphy, a master carpenter from Talbot County, fabricated the actual pieces of wood that made up the sculpture.

Mr. Dennard then finished the pieces in his studio with sealers and paints.

"My tendency is not to think I'm limited," he said in the Sunday Sun interview. "My imagination should be the only thing that limits me. Not my ability or lack of technical knowledge or anything else because you can overcome that. That's why disciplined artists are usually the best artists. They're working with their hands and their eyes and their hearts all at the same time."

Born and reared in Marshall, Texas, he studied in schools there and attended Tufts University and the Boston Museum School.

Meredith Davies, a longtime friend and Chestertown resident, said, "He really received his art education in the galleries and jazz clubs of New York, Boston, Washington and Barcelona [Spain]."

From 1968 to 1969, he was an artist in residence at St. John's College in Annapolis and from 1969 to 1978 was chairman of the art department at the private Key School in Anne Arundel County. While employed as an art therapist for various state-sponsored alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, he moved to the Eastern Shore in 1985 and built his studio.

His drawings, paintings and sculptures have been shown in such galleries and museums as the Barcelona Museum of Fine Arts, the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

He had one-man shows at the Illen Gallery in Atlanta, the Virginia Lynch Gallery in Rhode Island and the Watermark Gallery in Annapolis.

"This last year has been a celebration of life," he reflected in the interview.

"The richness of my friends, so much of what they do is not dictated by necessity, but by generosity and by love and by understanding. I'm not a cancer patient. I'm a human being. All this is not a fight against self-pity. I've never been real big on that. I figure it's a waste of time," he added.

A lover of fishing, wildlife and the outdoors, it was Mr. Dennard's wish that his ashes be spread at the Black Water National Wildlife Refuge. He left his body to the Anatomy Board.

Family, friends and the public are invited to attend an exhibit-celebration of his life and work on what would have been the opening of his latest show from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Massoni-Sommer Gallery, 210 High St., Chestertown.

He is survived by three former wives; a daughter, Nicole Dennard of Los Angeles; a sister, Kay Fryer of Austin, Tex.; his mother, Virginia Lynch of Little Compton, R.I.; and a special friend, Pat Trams of Chestertown.

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