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Renowned sculptor Rodger Mack dies after long illness
Renowned sculptor Rodger Mack dies after long illnessSeptember 18, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Internationally known sculptor Rodger Mack, professor of studio arts at Syracuse University, died Sept. 16 at his Syracuse home after a long illness. He was 63.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium in SU’s Crouse College. Contributions may be made to the Rodger Mack Graduate Scholarship Fund, 200 Crouse College, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y. 13244.
“No one is irreplaceable except Rodger Mack,” says Dean Carole Brzozowski. “We cannot imagine the college without his presence. He was a quiet man, quite unaware of the lasting impact of his presence in the lives of thousands of students. His dedication to his colleagues and the students is legendary. Even in the waning days of his life, he insisted on attending his classes. He gave his last strength to the students. This is the character of a man who led, in his many roles at the college, first with his heart. Our saddened hearts go out to his family and loved ones around the world.”
A member of the SU faculty since 1968, Mack is widely known for his bronze and steel sculptures, which are a part of permanent collections worldwide, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona, Filancard in Ecuador, Hamline University Art Museum in St. Paul, Minn.; the Arkansas Art Center Museum in Little Rock, Ark.; the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, and Syracuse University, among others. His work has been shown in exhibitions in Paris, England, Italy, Ecuador, South Africa and in cities across the United States, including the Sid Deutsch Gallery in New York City.
One of his last works-“Missing in Action,” a monolithic bronze sculpture-was created for the Veteran’s Memorial at the New York State Fairgrounds. The 10-foot tall, 4,000-pound piece was dedicated during the summer of 2001. The piece features four cutout silhouettes of military personnel, including a nurse and soldiers from different time periods.
Mack created the University’s foundry and sculpture program that has attracted the attention of the international art community. Notable artists such as Anthony Caro, Bill King, Kenneth Noland and Helen Frankenthaler traveled to Syracuse to work with Mack on a variety of projects. With Caro, Mack established the Triangle Artists Workshop, held in Pine Plains, N.Y., Barcelona, Spain and London. He served as dean, board member and participant of the Triangle Workshop from 1982 to 1992.
“Rodger was easily the most important bronze caster in this country,” says artist Ludwig K. Stein, professor of painting in SU’s School of Art and Design. “Anybody who knew anything about bronze came here to work in the foundry with Rodger.”
In addition to his art and teaching responsibilities, Mack served as the first director of SU’s School of Art and Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts from 1982 to 1991. Four pieces of Mack’s work are on display on the SU campus, and he created a series of eight, one-of-a-kind pieces that were presented to the 1997 Chancellor’s Citation recipients. The series was called “Academic Jazz,” reflecting the artist’s fondness for jazz and his belief that SU is a place where different influences come together. Mack was a 1991 recipient of a Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement.
“Every faculty member and student in the School of Art and Design will forever be indebted to Rodger,” says Barbara Walter, director of the school. “The legacy he leaves-the Shaffer Art Building and the Comstock Art Facility-will always remind us of Rodger, but it is his spirit, his devotion to his students, his friendship and his passion for his art that will be greatly missed.”
Mack was a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and of the Cleveland Institute of Art, and he also studied at the Academia Di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. He was the recipient of numerous awards, grants and honors, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gulbenkian Foundation in England, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Virginia Center on the Creative Arts. He also received a Fulbright Grant for study in Italy from 1963 to 1964.
Mack is survived by his companion, Jeri Nelson; his son, Theo Mack of New York City; his sister, Kathy Thomas of Naples, Fla.; and scores of professional artists and graduate students working in various capacities across the world who all regard him as their mentor.