- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - Larry Feeney could write a book. But he would probably much prefer to draw one.

It could illustrate the history of Mississippi University for Women’s art department and the community of visionaries who grew it during his 37-year tenure as a full-time instructor. The pages would be filled with the finely-drawn images he is known for, compelling images of luminous beauty and strength.

There is no book - yet. But for the first time in his prolific career, Feeney will be the sole focus of a retrospective. “Illuminated Memory” - a collection of approximately 80 of his works from the mid-1960s to present day - will be shown in the Eugenia Summer Gallery inside MUW’s Art and Design Building beginning Tuesday through April 10.

The Feeney exhibit is important, said Alex Stelioes-Wills, MUW associate professor of art and director of the gallery.

“It represents not only Larry’s history, but MUW history. It’s important for students to see the legacy they are inheriting. And it’s important for the community. Larry has been well-loved, and many people have his work hanging in their homes, Stelioes-Wills said.

The gallery is the fitting exhibit venue. Feeney is passionate about it, which is why the retrospective and reception also mark the establishment of the Larry Feeney Endowment for the Eugenia Summer Gallery. The fund will support exhibits and expand opportunities for student study, as well as community programs.

“People should really care about the gallery,” said Feeney.

He does. He was director of it for his last eight years at MUW, where he taught drawing, painting and calligraphy to more eager protégés than one could count.

The Davenport, Iowa native joined the art department in 1968, when Betty Dice, Mary Evelyn Stringer and Eugenia Summer made up the faculty. He remembers it all well: He’s a keen observer, and a reservoir of seemingly all he’s observed.

The 76-year-old recalled an incident 20 or so years ago, when a visitor to campus stopped in the gallery to look around. The gentleman was affiliated with one of the large industries in Lowndes County and seemed to be considering relocating to Columbus.

“You could tell that what the cultural life of this little town in Mississippi was was important to him,” said Feeney. “I don’t know if people here think of that enough … the way you look (to others), through the art, the plays and the music you bring in, how you show yourself off - that matters as much as football games.”

His two very proud daughters have heard it before.

“‘Art is long, life is short.’ He says it all the time,” said Katherine Feeney Munson of Columbus. “He lives by that.”

Munson and her sister, Elizabeth Richardson of St. Louis, didn’t have to wait until college for an education in art appreciation. For them, that class began at their father’s knee.

“Whenever we would go anywhere, he’d take us to the art museums; it was almost like going to church for him,” said Munson. “I remember him having such a reverence. That was really instilled in me.”

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