Work Continues to Save Downing Paintings Damaged in Museum Fire

Jun 28, 2013

A Joe Downing work

The job of determining how many paintings can be saved following a fire at a Bowling Green art museum continues.

An estimated 90 percent of the Joe Downing paintings housed at the estate of Jerry Baker are not seriously damaged. But WKU President Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff in an email this morning that nearly all of the paintings sustained smoke damage.

Dr. Ransdell said WKU Planning, Design, and Construction staff members are working with restoration experts and insurance professionals to start the recovery process for the museum building and the art.

Downing is a Hart County native who is one of only a few Americans that have an exhibit shown at the Louvre in Paris, France. He lived most of his adult life in France and was inspired by the natural beauty of the French countryside. He died in 2007 at his country home in the town of Menerbes.

WKU Art Department Head Brent Oglesbee says Downing’s work stands out because of its unique style, and use of color and pattern.

“It’s sort of divorced from visual cues and things that we would normally say we see and recognize, though he may be using some references. But it’s color for its own sake, pattern for its own sake. There are rhythms that are in his works, but they’re more formal and about color and placement," Oglesbee told WKU Public Radio.

A spokeswoman with the state fire marshall’s office said the cause of Thursday’s fire at the Baker Arboretum remains under investigation.