Mr. Warren Cameron Dennis Jr., 93, artist, professor, father, grandfather and great grandfather, passed away on April 13, 2021. He was born on Sept. 26, 1927, son of the late Warren Cameron Dennis Sr. and Mattie Lee Attneave Dennis of Clarksdale.
He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mary Kate Lowrey Dennis, daughter Anna Kathryn Sartin and husband Laddy Sartin, son Warren Cameron Dennis III and wife Terri Dowell Dennis, son Edwin Lowrey Dennis and fiancee Denise Lyon, daughter Martha Dennis and husband Landus Bennett, grandchildren Marianna Sartin and husband Cedric Parker, Kathryn Sartin Drum and husband Russell Drum, Ian Dennis and wife Anna Willis, Max Dennis, Andrew Dennis, Michael Dennis, and great-grandchildren Elijah Parker and Arthur Dennis.
As a young man Warren Dennis left the small cotton town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, to attend Mississippi Southern University, where in 1950 he was awarded the opportunity to study for the summer with artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi in Duluth, Minn. Dennis then entered a newly established graduate art program at the University of Mississippi at Oxford, aka Ole Miss, where he studied with and worked as an assistant to artist Jack Tworkov. Both Tworkov and Kuniyoshi were powerful influences on young Dennis.
Throughout his life as an active and prolific artist and art professor, Dennis exhibited widely and taught painting and art history with a specialization in American Art. A listing of his exhibitions would fill many pages. In 1955 he accepted his first teaching position at Judson College in Marion, Alabama. In 1965, Dennis and his family moved to Boone, North Carolina, where he became a transformational force for the Appalachian State University (ASU) Department of Art. He served as the Chairperson from 1980 to 1984 and retired in 1993.
Dennis' prime painting years corresponded to the heyday of American Abstract Expressionism and, while he pushed the boundaries of paint on canvas all his life, he was a consummate draughtsman who never abandoned the human figure. He was able to capture the humanity and humility of his subjects through painterly images that depict everything from simple moments of family life to the great themes of art history. Dennis' wit and dry sense of humor weave through the scope and breadth of his imagery.
As a professor, Dennis influenced many students, leaving a vast legacy. In addition to teaching on campus, he and his wife Mary Kate organized student art tours to Europe and frequently hosted student groups at ASU's residences in New York City and Washington, D.C. Along with art, Dennis held a keen appreciation for classical music and Southern literature, and was humble when called an expert on conductor Arturo Toscanini, author William Faulkner, artist Pablo Picasso and many others.
Warren Dennis lived in Boone, N.C., for 49 years before moving to Winston Salem in 2014 to be closer to family and to better care for his wife Mary Kate, who is living with dementia. As revealed in his hundreds of paintings, family and family life were central to Warren Dennis and the place where he found much of his inspiration. He is remembered lovingly as a man who cherished each family member, spoiling them as babies and delighting in exposing them to art and culture as they grew older.
The Dennis family plans to celebrate Warren Dennis' life and art with an exhibition that will be announced at a later date.
The family invites former students, friends, and colleagues to share memories and comments that will be archived and added to his website at www.warrendennis.gallery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation (www.brpfoundation.org/donate)
Dennis' art is represented by the Carlton Gallery in Banner Elk, N.C.,(www.carltongallery.com/warren-dennis) and New Elements Gallery in Wilmington, N.C. (newelementsgallery.com/artists/warren-dennis).