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Current: Essays on the Passing of Time in the Woods

essays by Robert McGowan
photography by Jeffrey Stoner

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Having spent his entire life exploring the woods and hills of Tennessee, writer and artist Robert McGowan wrote these short essays to pay homage to the natural world he so loved. In essays such as “Bee,” “Beetle,” and “Turtles,” McGowan marvels at the curious behaviors of small creatures. In “Tops,” “Fences,” and “Maple,” he writes about trees—young trees he has seen grow and old trees he has watched rot and disappear into the earth. Be it animals, trees, ferns, flowers, or rocks, McGowan passionately and tenderly recounts his close observations of nature, often wondering about the woods of olden time and imagining the woods of tomorrow. The fine, unbreakable thread that winds through the book is the passing of time—life in the woods begins, grows, and dies. Through it all, McGowan shows the reader he is a man sustained by his sense of peace and contentment, for he knows that despite his concerns about yesterday and tomorrow, “there is only the current.” The beautiful photography of Jeffrey Stoner adds vibrance and vitality to this inspiring collection of nature essays.

PHOTOGRAPHY/Nature & Wildlife

ISBN: 978-0-9885897-2-8 (softcover)

LCCN: 2013942648

120 pages; 57 illustrations

Author Biography

Robert McGowan was born in 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee. He served, reluctantly, as a pay disbursement specialist with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, 1968/69. He held degrees (BS, MFA, MLS) in philosophy/biology, fine art (Cranbrook Academy of Art), and information science respectively and, at various times, was a university faculty member, library arts specialist, founder of arts organizations and publications (Turner Clark Gallery, Memphis Center for Contemporary Art, the journal Number:, Tennessee New Art Association), gallery director, newspaper art critic, book reviewer, bookstore marketing and media relations manager, and is a widely published writer of fiction and nonfiction. He was for many years primarily a practicing artist and as such developed a substantial bibliography and exhibitions list. His work is in numerous private, corporate, and public collections internationally, including Bank of America, Bank of Korea, Cranbrook Art Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Smithsonian Institution. His more recent artwork appeared as interior portfolios and on the covers of literary journals in America and abroad. McGowan is the subject of The McGowan Collection in the archives of the History Department of Memphis Public Library and Information Center, one of America’s premier public libraries. The collection contains hundreds of clippings and photographs, published and unpublished writing by and about McGowan, documentation of art works, several hours of news/television video segments and programs, and other materials. Robert McGowan died in November 2012 as a result of lymphoma, likely the result of exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

Photographer Biography

Jeffrey Stoner was born in 1953 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and lived in the Harrisburg area through 2007. Stoner’s passion for photography began when he was eight years old. He walked outside after an ice storm, looked up into a tree’s ice-covered branches, and wished he had a camera to capture that moment. Though he had a passion for photography at a young age, he didn’t begin selling his images until 2004 when a gallery called to ask if he would show his work. Stoner soon began selling his work through several galleries as well as exhibiting in group and solo venues around the country. For most of his life Stoner devoted his business efforts to careers in trucking/distribution and healthcare. He was, for many years, the vice president and treasurer of Central Storage and Transfer Company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When the owners retired, Stoner began a new career in healthcare. He was vice president of Senior Living Services for Complete HealthCare Resources (CHR) in Dresher, Pennsylvania. Although he enjoyed his new job, he soon decided to “chase the dream.” In 2007 Stoner and his wife, Bonnie, left family, friends, and careers behind and moved to Kingsport, Tennessee. The move opened opportunities for making images in the mile-high mountains and fertile valleys of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. It also gave Stoner many more possibilities for gallery representation. Jeffrey Stoner now focuses on making photographs, exhibiting and selling his work, and teaching.


"Current: Essays on the Passing of Time in the Wood is a Thoreau-like set of musings on Nature and man’s relationship with all living things. Current expresses Robert McGowan’s deep reverence for the forest and the need for man to respect the earth’s bounty rather than to exploit and destroy it. The spectacular photographs by Jeffrey Stoner are a perfect manifestation of the contents of McGowan's essays, beautifully placed within the book’s words and flowing through the pages with the grace of a woodland stream."
— Carrie Wissler Thomas, artist, art instructor, free-lance writer, and Executive Director, Art Association of Harrisburg, Pennsylvani

"Robert McGowan’s essays allow the reader to relive, recapture, and embrace the joy that surrounds us in Tennessee's wonderful mountains. Being someone whose heart is “at home” anytime I walk in the woods, I imagine returning to these essays time and again to be inspired and energized. Through their words and images, McGowan and Stoner have created a treasure for all to experience."
— Carrie Keith, president and owner, Twigs and Leaves Gallery, Waynesville, North Carolina

"What a lovely book! Through McGowan's musings of life in the context of nature, I found myself traveling back in time and mentally reliving my experiences in the woods near my childhood home in Kingsport, Tennessee. Jeffrey Stoner's stunning images bring this book to life, supporting the foundation of McGowan’s writing and solidifying what we see and feel when we experience nature. All in all, Current inspires one to leave the confines of our busy, boxed-in lives to promptly head outdoors, serenely reconnecting to the freedom of our thoughts while meandering about in the woods."
— Polly Mallory, owner and curator, Mallory Fine Art, Abingdon, Virginia

Press Releases

Book Release Announcement (9-18-13)

Current: Essays on the Passing of Time in the Woods, by Robert McGowan, photography by Jeffrey Stoner Current: Essays


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