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Two Lafayette alumni artists are returning to campus this term to share their expertise and insights with students and expand their own range of artistic understanding and expression.

Ross Gay, a 1996 graduate who received the George Wharton Pepper Prize as the senior who “most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal,” will serve as a Dean of Studies Humanities Fellow throughout the academic year.

Meredith Morse, a 1985 graduate who lives and works in Sydney, Australia, will be a visiting artist and art historian in residence from Sept. 19 to Oct. 12.

Headquartered in a studio in the new Williams Visual Arts Building in downtown Easton, Gay will teach an introductory art course in the fall semester and a unique class on art and poetry in the spring term.

Gay has investigated the concept of marrying art and poetry at length in his own work and the work of others.

He says, “One question is, ‘How can painting and poetry connect in some way?’ A more pointed question is, ‘How can words function in an image?’ I think it will be fun to address that question. I’ll play with the correlation between visual arts and poetry, and make students think about it in ways that they haven’t done before.”

Gay has incorporated snippets of his own poetry into his paintings, following the tradition of established artists such as abstract painter Cy Twombly, whose works have fetched multi-million-dollar auction prices.

He plans to interact with students in a variety of ways in addition to teaching. This may include mentoring advanced art students as they do in-depth projects to earn departmental honors in studio art.

Gay himself graduated with honors in studio art. A double major in art and English and a starting defensive end on the varsity football team, he received the Vivian B. Noblett Prize, given to the outstanding senior in studio art, and the Gilbert Prize for superiority in English.

“One thing that’s great about this opportunity is that some of my former professors are here, who know a ton of stuff about what I’m studying,” he says. “They’ll be an amazing resource.”

His fellowship at Lafayette this year will be the latest in a series of contributions Gay has made to the enrichment of his alma mater’s cultural scene.

He collaborated this summer in a distinctive painting project that included use of text on the canvas with Lafayette student Chris Michaud, a junior art and music double major from Millerton, N.Y., and Edward J. Kerns, Eugene H. Clapp II Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Building. He also led a workshop on poetry and painting for high-school students participating in art classes conducted by Jim Toia, director of Lafayette’s Community-Based Teaching Program.

He has also exhibited his work with artists Melvin Butler and Roderick Jordan at the David A. Portlock Black Cultural Center and participated in poetry readings.

While at Lafayette Gay will continue working toward a Ph.D. in literature at Temple University. He holds a master’s degree in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. His poems have appeared in Sulfur, Columbia, American Poetry Review, and Harvard Review, among others.

Morse’s contributions will include speaking with students in classes, giving feedback on honor students’ work, and delivering lectures on Australian art. She also will create art in the Williams Visual Arts Building.

The first person to earn honors in art at Lafayette in the modern sense, Morse also won the Frederick Knecht Detwiller Prize, awarded to senior art majors with distinguished work in art and art history. She received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to undertake a year-long post-graduate study of contemporary aboriginal art in Australia. For six months during that study, she served as an art coordinator at Yuendumu, a Warlpiri community in the Northern Territory of Australia. Since then, she has lived in Sydney.

Morse has exhibited in three solo shows and numerous group shows at Legge Gallery in Sydney. Her art is represented in the collection of the Australian National Gallery. Morse recently completed her master’s in art history and theory at the University of Sydney. She has given presentations of her research at conferences, including one on Diane Arbus in July at an art history and theory conference at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. She received a Diploma of Education from the Sydney College of Advanced Education in 1988.

Categorized in: Academic News