Rob McGowan: A Stirring Body of Work



Frank's Market on South Main at Vance may be home now to a convenience store and popular sandwich shop, but once upon a time it was known as Frank's Liquors, a place for Phillip Sands, an art-history student gone "haywire," to work. Upstairs, in one of the building's second-floor apartments, it was also a place for Sands to call home. The derelict South Main neighborhood surrounding it: a place for the young man to take photographs and, in so doing, picture his damaged self.

That's the set-up in Rob McGowan's short story "A Stirring Body of Work" (from his unpublished collection Happy Again at Last: Stories from the Art World), and that's Frank's Liquors you see in a photograph taken by McGowan in 1986. Both the story and the photograph appear in the spring 2010 issue of The Louisiana Review. And that's not the only place you can find the writing and the reproduced artwork of Rob McGowan, former gallery director and art critic (including for the Memphis Flyer); co-founder of the local art journal Number:; and head of what was the Memphis Center for Contemporary Art on South Main in the late '80s.

See more of McGowan by going down under — Australia — where issue 3 of dotdotdash, an arts quarterly out of Perth, carries a four-page portfolio of McGowan's "pavement markings" photographs (shot near his home in Cooper-Young). Issue 4 of dotdotdash, due in July, is running a two-page spread of McGowan's color-pencil "drawing photographs" (right), a two-page spread of his "little dead bird" sheet-metal sculptures (below right), and another spread of photos from the artist's "Approaches" series.

In addition to dotdotdash, McGowan has seen his essay called "Impulse" published in the Australian journal Etchings (vol. 6) and two short stories, "Wordless" and "Cute, He Thought It Was," in recent issues of the Australian quarterly Skive Magazine.

"I might be nobody here in the Western Hemisphere," McGowan said in an e-mail. "But I'm doggonit HUGE in Australia!"

Not so fast. McGowan's doing a pretty good job placing his fiction, nonfiction, and artwork in journals if not across the Western Hemisphere then in some fine publications right here in these United States. This summer, see Echo Ink Review, vol. 2, #1, for the story "What I Would Hope Would Happen," and see the inaugural issue of Camera Obscura for the story "The McCaig Photographs."

This fall, look for the anthology Art from Art, from Modernist Press, a small press out of Los Angeles and New York that specializes in fiction related to visual art. The book will contain McGowan's story "An Ephemeral Exertion." For this fall as well: The respected journal River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative (from Ashland University in Ohio) will publish McGowan's moving personal essay "Owl."

From the University of North Carolina: See Chautauqua's summer 2010 issue, which contains McGowan's fictional piece "Coleman," set in Cooper-Young. See too his personal essay "Beech," which has already been accepted for Chautauqua's summer 2011 issue. "A bit of a kick," McGowan said in another e-mail. "Two consecutive issues. In one issue with fiction; in the next, with nonfiction."

AND ...

McGowan's "Li'l Jamie," a piece of "flash fiction," is in volume 3 of Fast Forward, due out later this summer.

The story "So Unimportant an Event" appears in LIT, the literary journal of the New School in New York city.

And there's another Cooper-Young-set story, "Aaron," out now in the spring issue of Concho River Review, from Angelo State University in Texas.

"Gosh, I guess that's enough," McGowan said of all this news in another e-mail. "But as you undoubtedly know, any artist of any stripe, on being asked to speak of the work, is likely to do so," he added, then added jokingly: "It's embarrassing but kain't be helped."

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