Looking back: Show highlights 50 years of art by NMU professor

MARQUETTE – A Thursday night reception at the Devos Art Museum on the Northern Michigan University campus honored John Hubbard, a painter and long-time NMU professor who is displaying a career’s worth of work in his largest solo show.

The gallery was packed with Hubbard’s friends, colleagues and former students.

The exhibition – titled “John Hubbard: Looking Back” – spans 50 years and contains 112 pieces. Select works by a few of Hubbard’s former students are also on display.

“If there is any continuity over the years, it has been a continuing interest in drawing,” Hubbard said of his career. “It is the one process that appears and reappears throughout the exhibit.”

During the reception, Brady Nelson, Hubbard’s friend and a former student, presented Hubbard with a portrait he painted of the professor.

Nelson said Hubbard instilled in him a good work ethic – pushing him outside of his comfort zone – and always encouraged him to enter shows. The two are still acquainted.

Hubbard said he appreciated the opportunity to display so much of his work at once.

“It’s fun to see the work up because I never get a chance to do that,” said Hubbard, who has been teaching at NMU since 1969. “I have had other one-man shows, but never this big.”

Hubbard said a majority of his solo shows contain work done within the last two years; none of them have spanned so many years. Only a handful of the artist’s earliest works are on display; Hubbard said he gave most of that work away or burned it.

“I did manage to sell one (early) painting to one of my roommates for $3, who then spent $20 dollars on a frame,” Hubbard said.

The earliest piece in the show was completed in 1964 when Hubbard was a student at Boston University. The painting was a view out his seventh-floor window at Myles Standish Hall looking across the rooftops.

Originally from upstate New York, Hubbard attended the University of Boston as an undergraduate and continued his education at Syracuse University, where he received his Masters of Fine Arts in 1968. Hubbard taught at Florida’s Rollins College for one year – teaching three dimensional design, art history, and art fundamentals – before coming to Marquette.

“I think it’s stunning,” Tracy Wascom, a colleague of Hubbard’s, said of his exhibition. “It’s wonderful to watch the staff in the building come together with John to go through the editing process, to take an entire career’s worth of work and pull together a sort of statement that embodies such a prolific career.”

During his career, Hubbard has received a Michigan Creative Artist Grant, has served as the artist-in-residence at Isle Royale and has had work in more than 200 juried exhibitions.

Though he said he plans to continue teaching at NMU for at least another year, Hubbard said he is also looking forward to retirement, when he can focus on his personal work and display his art in galleries around the Midwest.

Hubbard’s exhibition will be on display at the Devos until July 7. He will guide the public through his featured work on June 13 at 7 p.m.

Matt Keiser can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.