After four decades of teaching college kids the fine details of painting and drawing, UTC professor Alan White is retiring. Not from art, mind you, from teaching.
"My physician warned me that, in particular for men who have been active professionals, that retirement can mean a period of deep depression for which I should prepare myself," White says. "After a quick 'Thanks, Doc!' though, I assured him that, as an artist, I would finally have an abundance of time to work in my studio, which is my intent.
"I know that this time has come, and I'm ready for it. I want to leave teaching here while I feel I'm still at the top of my game."
In recognition of his career, a sampling of White's work while at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will be exhibited at Hunter Museum of American Art from March 30 to June 9. The exhibit will highlight his progression as an artist.
White's paintings, though usually minimal, are lush investigations of texture and composition, with built up surfaces that are often scraped down to open up the layers underneath, says Nandini Makrandi, contemporary curator for the Hunter, in a news release.
"For a while I was primarily working figuratively," White says. "Basically, however, I've always been interested in landscape, in urban and rural structures, in land forms and in light in the landscape. My newest work continues in this vein."
Local artist Ann Nichols, a former student of White's, graduated from UTC in 1986 with a bachelor of fine arts in painting. Nichols, who has written art stories for the Times Free Press, says he was a conscientious, caring and fair professor.
"His knowledge of, and passion for, art was obvious as he discussed different historical and contemporary artists and movements to help us understand the evolution of art," Nichols says.
White, a native of Scotland, says his students give him mixed emotions about retiring.
"Preparing for it has been a mishmash of complex feelings," he says. "I'll miss my students deeply, while feeling enormous satisfaction at the privilege of having worked with hundreds of them over a 41-year career."
White's continued presence in the community will further enhance Chattanooga's artistic growth, museum officials say. But whether or not he stays in Chattanooga for the long run is undecided, he says.
"My wife, Marna, and I are mulling over these very thoughts at this point in time. ... We have no immediate plans to move for at least a year or two, if at all. We're looking into moving back to the United Kingdom, and Ireland is currently on our minds," he says.
White says he never considered art as a profession until late in his college studies.
"I had never taken a course in art until I was a junior in college. I decided to take a studio art course for all the wrong reasons. I thought it'd be easy," he says.
A professor changed the course of his life by inspiring him to pursue art as a career, he says.
"This speaks volumes to the impact a single teacher can have on one's life. This young man, who tragically killed himself ... reshaped my whole sense of individuality and gave me a new purpose in life. At this point, I knew teaching at the university level was my goal."
White says the arts landscape in Chattanooga has changed dramatically during his four decades in the city.
"At this point, as I approach retirement, I have never seen such a thriving arts community in this city: North Shore, Southside, CreateHere, Montague Park, the River Arts District. [Chattanooga] is a city of which we all should be proud."