Ed McGowin

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Ed McGowin
Born 1938 (age 78–79)[1]
Hattiesburg, Mississippi[2]
Residence New York City and Kent, Connecticut
Education MFA
Alma mater University of Southern Mississippi and University of Alabama
Occupation Artist and educator
Years active 1962–present
Notable work Name Change
Spouse(s) Claudia DeMonte
Website www.edmcgowin.com

Ed McGowin (born in 1938) is an American artist. McGowin has produced works of public sculpture and for exhibitions. He has taught at institutions including the Corcoran College of Art and Design, the University of Southern Mississippi, and the State University of New York system. He is best known for his 1970–71 work Name Change, for which he changed his name and identity twelve times over an eighteen-month period. He has also created public sculptures in several states.

Early life[edit]

Ed McGowin was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1938.[2] Early in his life, McGowin was an amateur boxer.[3] He received a BA from the University of Southern Mississippi and earned a MA from the University of Alabama.[4][5] After graduating, McGowin went to Washington, DC to work for Mississippi Congressman William Colmer. McGowin has said of this time that, "It was a patronage job. The official title was that of a doorman. Mostly it was for guys in law school or political science graduate programs who wanted to go into politics. I didn't have to do anything but hang out and get paid 12 months a year." During this period McGowin used his time to begin his career as a professional artist. His first exhibited works were experimental abstract paintings. McGowin would leave the job after two years to return to teaching.[6]

Teaching career[edit]

After instructing at the University of Southern Mississippi[7] and taking the job at the Capitol, McGowin began instructing at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.[6] In the 1964 he also co-founded the McGowin-Bright Art School in Alexandria, Virginia with his contemporary Harold Bright, a fellow student at Alabama. The school did not grade students work but provided both lectures and workshops to artists. It received funding from the Small Business Administration as a part of its "six by six" program, which encouraged small businesses during the 1960s.[8] As of the 1970s McGowin was an instructor of art at the State University of New York at Old Westbury.[9]

Art work[edit]


While initially his style leaned towards the abstract, during the early 1970s McGowin altered his general style towards a greater realism.[10] McGowin has created paintings and sculptures with specific social messages, such as the treatment of pre-Columbians by European colonists after the discovery of the New World, and the social misconduct that accompanied the early days of American capitalism. Art critic Richard Huntington has stated of his sculpture work that,

McGowin works the higher ground where everyday social misconduct merges with larger questions of evil and the corrupt and corrupting condition of the human soul ... It helps immensely that behind this grim view of humanity resides McGowin's sturdy wit. The figures often have the bitter humor of the grotesque, like caricatures that both bite and amuse in their blackness.[11]

Washington Post art critic Benjamin Forgey wrote of a 1987 McGowin painting exhibition that, "There's lots of provocation, as usual, in Ed McGowin's art ... McGowin is an ace teller of edgy stories, and he makes sure that viewers fully participate in his main subject here, which is nothing less than contemporary isolation, distress, dissociation, anomie."[3] Washington Post critic Michael Welzenbach said of his work that, "McGowin's paintings and sculpture have always operated on a number of levels, being constructed so as to prod the viewer into trying to solve riddles or fill in intentional gaps."[12] Art critic Paul Richards has called McGowin "one of Washington's most important artists".[6]

Public works and exhibitions[edit]

Starting in 1970 and continuing on into 1971, McGowin produced one of his best known works, Name Change, for which he legally changed his name and identity every six weeks over the span of a year and a half, and produced works during each span reflecting the differing self he discovered through each new persona.[3][13] The first name he took was Alva Isaiah Fost, followed by Lawrence Steven Orlean, and then Irby Benjamin Roy.[14] His final change of the twelve months was back to his original name, Ed McGowin. A thirty-fifth anniversary book was published on the project in 2006. In 1977 the National Endowment for the Arts commissioned a public sculpture from McGowin entitled Inscape, which was located in a public plaza at 1220 19th St. NW, Washington DC. The sculpture was vandalized by a group of Washington Redskins football players, after which it was removed.[1][6]

A work by McGowin consisting of bronze columns and a frieze is located on the Queens, New York, Bayside subway station platform, which articulates the "Bayside Story".[9] Other public commissions of McGowin's work include the New Mexico Monuments in Santa Rosa, NM, a Federal Building sculpture in Jackson, Mississippi, and work on site at the University of Iowa in Cedar Falls, the St. Marc Gate in Le Plan de Grasse, France, as well as residential complexes in New York City. The US government has also commissioned work from McGown through the United States General Services Administration and United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[4][5][6] McGowin has 39 works in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, including pieces from the Name Change project.[15] His pieces are also a part of the collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Phillips Collection, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. He has taken part in more than sixty solo exhibitions as well as several hundred group exhibitions.[5][16][17]

Personal life[edit]

McGowin is married to his wife Claudia DeMonte,[18] who is also an artist[19] and curator for international art exhibitions.[20] He lives and works in both New York City and Kent, Connecticut.[5] McGowin has two children, Leah McGowin Thomas and Jill McGowin who both reside in San Antonio.


  1. ^ a b Ed McGowin (2006). Ed McGowin: Name Change : One Artist, Twelve Personas, Thirty-five Years : Alva Isaiah Fost, Lawrence Steven Orlean, Irby Benjamin Roy, Nathan Ellis McDuff, Euri Ignatius Everpure, Isaac Noel Anderson, Nicholas Gregory Nazianzen, Thornton Modestus Dossett, Ingram Andrew Young, Melvill Douglas O'Connor, Edward Everett Updike, William Edward McGowin. Univ. Press of Mississippi. 
  2. ^ a b "Ed McGowin". The Smithsonian. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Benjamin Forgey (October 31, 1987). "Stories for an Alienated Age; McGowin's Painful Images". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Original work created for luxury upper west side". Real Estate Weekly. February 16, 2005. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d Patti Carr Black (2007). The Mississippi Story. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 113. 
  6. ^ a b c d e John Kelly (November 25, 2012). "Mystery of Missing Sculpture Requires Some Looking Into". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ Ed McGowin: Name Change, 2006, page 8
  8. ^ Grace Glueck (October 11, 1964). "Art Notes". New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Barbara Delatiner (December 2, 2001). "The Commuters May Rush, But the Art is There to Stay". New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  10. ^ Paul Richard (October 18, 1988). "Art; At the Corcoran, A Four-Star Show". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  11. ^ RICHARD HUNTINGTON (June 10, 1994). "The evil within: McGowin probes the dark side". The Buffalo News. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  12. ^ Michael Welzenbach (December 16, 1989). "Galleries; The Enduring Vitality of The Still Life". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  13. ^ Ed McGowin: Name Change, 2006, page 4
  14. ^ Ed McGowin: Name Change, 2006, page 9
  15. ^ "Ed McGowin catalogue". Smithsonian. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  16. ^ "McMonte Inc.". Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Torringtons Five Points". Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  18. ^ Denny Lee (June 10, 2001). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: SOHO; Godard Night and Day Is Too Much for Some Artists". New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  19. ^ Todd Allan Yasui and Jo Ann Lewis (July 2, 1990). "The Disappearing de Weldons". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  20. ^ "A global collection of art". Jordan Times. January 17, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 

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