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Unveiling passion: MFA alumnus’ journey from construction to canvas

February 2, 2024

Clemson Master of Fine Arts (MFA) alumnus Jerry Gorman’s ’83 journey from road construction in Lordsburg, N.M., to accomplished fine arts painter is a story of passion, determination and uncertainty.

Before going to college, Gorman took a job working in road construction. But while watching the sun’s vibrant hues during evenings with the bridge crew, he made a life-altering decision to pursue art formally. In August 1972, Gorman’ enrolled at New Mexico State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1976.

Prompted by a move by his girlfriend after college, Gorman enrolled at Clemson University to earn his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Here, he connected with John Acorn, former head of the Art Department. The prospect of studying in Genoa, Italy, further fueled Gorman’s decision to join Clemson’s MFA program.

Painting of Genoa, Italy by MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman '83
Painting of Genoa, Italy by MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman ’83

Career at Sandia National Labs
Post-graduation, Gorman began a career at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque.

“In 1983, Sandia National Labs was one of three nuclear weapons think tanks in the United States,” Gorman said. “My clients consisted of American Presidents, Congress, international foreign governments, engineers, scientists, physicists, and local and state government officials.”

Over 25 years, he held roles ranging from Technical Color Illustrator to Art Director/Project Manager, leaving an indelible mark. Simultaneously, Gorman explored the world of fine arts, exhibiting in galleries and achieving success as a Principal Member of the laboratory staff.

Painting Studio for MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman '83
The painting studio of MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman ’83

Retirement and Beyond
Retirement opened a new chapter for Gorman, now immersed in his studio for an upcoming exhibition at Goldenstein Art in Sedona, Arizona. Inspired by the Oak Creek Canyon National Park’s beauty, his paintings come alive. Three sketchbooks offer a glimpse into his creative mind, with roots in Genoa and playful animations in a digital sketchbook.

As Gorman captivates audiences with vibrant artwork, his journey from construction to artistic prominence is a testament to the transformative power of art.

About the Clemson MFA Program
Clemson University’s Master of Fine Arts program is celebrating a half-century of art and learning with a three-part exhibition featuring a wide variety of art from its graduates and receptions featuring reflections from notable alumni and supporters of the MFA program. As part of this 50-year-long celebration, Clemson Visual Arts is featuring MFA Alumni this semester leading into the summer months.

The MFA is considered the terminal degree in the visual arts. Clemson’s program offers studio concentrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography and sculpture. Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are encouraged within the department. The program’s primary goal is to provide students with opportunities to develop a high degree of professional competence in their chosen area of concentration.

Visitor to the Lee Gallery viewing painting by MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman '83
Visitor to the Lee Gallery viewing painting by MFA Alumnus, Jerry Gorman ’83