Edmund Demers was a lay faculty member at Clarke College during the time my aunt was chair of the Clarke College art department. He was quoted in Time Magazine about his work at Clarke, and Ed’s talents were profiled in a SALT 2007 article (Sisters of Charity publication).
Earlier in 2011, I was able to reach Dr. Demers by phone at his home in Mass. and I sent him some printouts of my early blog pages. He responded with a lovely letter, some of which I have excerpted here:
“On the list of missing works, the “Man from Maine” this came about when I returned to Clarke after the Christmas break wearing a new coat that I liked – it was dark blue with a hood, no buttons, but wooden pegs to be inserted into rope loops – it reminded me of something in the British Navy, or to be seen in the North Woods – very outdoorsy and iconic of Maine. Anyway, Sister James Ann liked it too and asked if I would wear it as she painted it. It then appeared at the DPL as you know.”
“Most importantly to me is the great debt I owe to Sr. James Ann for major events in my professional career: two Way of the Cross commissions, both for BVM chapels, a large mosaic on the facade of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Dubuque; but mostly for her calling to my intention a Ph.D program at Ohio Univ., Athens, Ohio particularly suited to my background and needs. These and many other achievements in my years at Clarke are entirely due to Sister’s inspiration, encouragement and help. God bless her.”
Later in the same phone call, Ed shared that my aunt was a “progressive” and enjoyed change and new ways of doing things. He particularly remembered the outdoor art festivals which she began, that showcased her students’ work and gave them an opportunity to exhibit and sell their artwork in the open air.
As her teaching colleague, Ed was not directly familiar with her personal art or works that she exhibited. I sent him some of my blog posts. Seeing color print outs of some of the work, most notably those I have named Forgiveness, Lucky 13, Blue City and Bridges, he said, “Wow!” “I never knew what she was working on or where she was doing these paintings.”
Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. I think her Clarke classrooms were devoted to her students and she preferred to shine the spotlight on the paintings, mosaics and efforts of her young, talented charges.
Her personal expressions in art were done with little fanfare, perhaps in pursuit of her three degrees, sold here and there, or left to be enjoyed by her BVM family. Did she work during the evening hours, weekends or when school was not in session? I don’t know. Did she have an easel and paints in her room? Most of her paintings are quite large! I wonder in what atmosphere she worked and in what seasons she was most prolific. Did current world events make their way into her work? Was art just another way to pray? These are questions that have no definitive answers – but I am left to assess a a variety of images, color, texture and contrast that indicate to me that this quiet, modest, gifted woman had quite a lot to say in her own, unique way!