A few weeks ago I got an interesting phone call from photographer Glenford Nunez. He’d happened across a newly opened gallery and an artist who’d inspired him to rush home and grab his camera. He wasn’t sure how to describe the art, except to say that the artist worked with glass and he’d never seen anything like it. I could tell by his enthusiasm that what he experienced there had moved him somehow. When Glenford asked if I was interested in doing a story to accompany his photos the answer was, of course, yes. If nothing else, I at least wanted a glimpse of what had inspired him so. The gallery he found, tucked between the sleepy antique shops on Howard Street, belonged to Loring Cornish, visionary artist and more importantly, a truly remarkable person.
A few weeks later I found myself at the gallery. I’d heard Loring’s name, in passing, though I’d yet to be introduced to his work other than the photos Glenford sent along. In the days leading up to our meeting I poured over whatever information I could find. My impression of Loring first started taking shape after watching this video chronicling his critically acclaimed exhibition from last year, “In Each Other’s Shoes.” A collection of work that explores the parallels between the struggles of Black and Jewish people.
While watching this video what becomes evident upon hearing Loring speak is that there is a self-assuredness and verve that grabs your attention and inspires trust. What was missing from this profile is the source of his inspiration and how deeply spiritual he is. In fact, during our conversation one of the first things he told me was, “the reason why I do art, the only reason that I do art is to worship God. I quit the television and movie industry to come home and worship God. And out of my worship comes the art.”
For Loring his art is an exercise in faith and from that faith springs deeply resonate work that relays a transcendent narrative that speaks to us, not as critics or artists, but as people. He has mastered the ability to channel his own abundant inspiration, into work that inspires others, with little or no entropy. Last year Loring was featured in five museums and this year he has a traveling show and an upcoming exhibit at Harlem Fine Arts on February 10. He is not a trained artist and when he started he never considered selling his work. His success stems from a mission outside of serving himself. He freely gives the world inspiration and the world responds.
“You know I’ve gotten so many letters or emails from people saying how the art has fulfilled them. Kids have been inspired; people have been inspired to begin doing the things that they’ve always wanted to do which, is something I want people to walk away with. I want people to walk away with more than a pretty picture but also to be inspired or to believe in something that they want to do with their lives. Then, my art would be more than just art, it would go beyond the boundaries of something to look at. It could be something that would sink deep into your soul and inspire or encourage you on a daily basis.” –Loring Cornish
“What I’ve learned over the years is to continue to take a chance; to continue to do the thing that’s on my mind. When I get that idea that I feel strongly about, I can’t sit down and rationalize or say to myself I can’t do this or I won’t be able to do this or how is this going to happen? If I get an idea, and I feel it strongly in my gut, I have to on what I’m feeling. You know… I have to go on what I don’t see. I’ve learned over the years that if I get an idea, if I get a feeling, if I have an intuition, to just do it.”
“A client asked me to design something for an addition to their house and I told them that I would come back with the written plans but when I came back a week or two weeks later, I’d completed the entire project. They were huge pieces! I did it because I felt it. When I got home I said oh my god I know what I can do. I didn’t discuss it with them, I took a chance. I didn’t know whether they were going to buy them or not but they said oh my god you hit it on the head.”
The story of how Loring Cornish went from struggling actor to thriving artist is a fascinating one though it’s been told a number of times before. Instead of rehashing it, I’ll direct you to this great telling or it from Baltimore Magazine.