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NCMA honors printmaker Zirkle

Gabor Nemeth arrived at the North Country Museum of Arts Saturday to view the late Ross Zirkle's work. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Ross Zirkle's work will be displayed at the NCMA through July 29.2 / 2

Gabor Nemeth, who now resides near San Francisco, returned to Park Rapids Saturday to honor his protégé, the late Ross Zirkle, whose artwork is featured at the North Country Museum of Arts in July.

Zirkle's father, Clyde, credits Nemeth's influence for his son's career as a notable printmaker.

Zirkle was in his first year of college when he became acquainted with the art restorer, researcher and curator who'd emigrated from Europe after World War II.

The pair became friends, Clyde Zirkle recalled. Ross helped on the farm until nightfall, when the two headed indoors, Nemeth tutoring him on restoration techniques.

"Of the six colleges he attended, Ross said he (Nemeth) was the best art teacher he met," Clyde Zirkle told the group that gathered Saturday at the NCMA for the reception.

"You made him do what he wanted to do," he told Gabor Saturday.

Zirkle was a Tamarind Master Printer who received his master of fine arts in printmaking from the University of Oregon. 

From 1997-2007, he presented his work and research on waterless lithography and figure drawing at 24 national workshops and conferences.

His work is included in many permanent collections, including Rutgers Center for Innovative Printmaking, Massachusetts College of Art, University of Texas, Austin, and Frogman's Press and Gallery, Vermillion, S.D. 

Ross Zirkle was an associate professor at the University of Kentucky where he taught printmaking and figure drawing until his death in 2007 due to cancer.

The NCMA exhibit of Zirkle's art will continue through Thursday, July 29.

Zirkle's mentor, Nemeth, is responsible for the collection of Old Masters for which the NCMA has become renowned.

Nemeth acquired the paintings as payment for his years working for Hungarian Louis Warschaw, for whom he spent years researching and restoring artwork.

In 1977, after the Park Rapids exhibit of the works by 16th and 17th Century Flemish and Dutch masters drew more than 4,000 viewers, Nemeth and his wife decided not to donate the works to St. John's University, as had originally been planned.

The collection would remain in Park Rapids. Thirty families purchased the works that are displayed in the NCMA.

"I'm still happy it happened," Nemeth said Saturday.