Rest in Peace, Keith Achepohl (1934-2018)

The JSMA was saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend, artist Keith Achepohl, on Saturday, February 24. Keith’s magnificent body of work in response to his 2011 Morris Graves Foundation Residency is currently on view in Keith Achepohl: Vision of Nature/Vessel of Beauty. So many of our staff and the extended JSMA family worked closely with Keith to bring this project to life, and we are honored to have spent valuable time with him in the months leading up to the exhibition’s opening in January. It was a joy to see so many of Keith’s friends and family experience his work alongside our community of museum visitors.

As an artist, Keith was dynamic, experimental, and prolific, yet also mindful, patient, and steady. His illustrious career speaks for itself: He received a B.A. from Knox College (1956), an M.F.A. degree from the University of Iowa (1960), and honorary doctorates from Pacific Lutheran University (1989) and Knox College (1996), and served as head of printmaking at the School of Art at the University of Iowa and the director of the University of Iowa Summer in Venice. Among his numerous awards and recognitions were Fulbright grants in Egypt (1977) and Turkey (1984) and a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1994). He exhibited extensively nationally and internationally and his works are held in the permanent collections of many of the most prestigious museums in the United States and around the world.

Keith’s involvement with this museum since he moved to Eugene over 10 years ago included service on our Leadership Council and Collections Committee; gifts and loans of African ceramics, European prints, and Pacific Northwest drawings and paintings; participation in our educational mission as a presenter for university classes and public programs; and numerous other ways large and small. In all cases, he vigorously pursued excellence and challenged all of us to always do the same. One of his final JSMA projects was an in-depth review of hundreds of works on paper by Morris Graves in the permanent collection, which took place over a series of visits in summer and fall 2017. He curated the selection of works now on view in Morris Graves: Layers of Time in the Graves Gallery, which shares his personal approach to understanding Graves’s work from an artist’s perspective.

In the interview for his exhibition catalog, conducted in September, Keith said “What you do is live the life you are trying to live as productively, as inventively, as much full of love as you possibly can. And that’s it. I don’t know what else there is to say about life and living and time. It works itself out and we never know how it’s going to do that.” The JSMA will miss his joie de vivre and clever sense of humor just as much as his artistic talent.