Faculty & Staff

Progress | January 2011

January 2011

By Katelynn Christensen

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“I stumbled into art accidentally,” says English professor and Honors program director John McDowell. Growing up a “typical pastor’s kid” in South Africa, John did not have much exposure to art until college, when he became the school’s yearbook editor. Despite his belief that he lacked anything resembling artistic talent, John dutifully signed up for a beginning art techniques course to learn about design. He slowly but surely developed talent and a deep sense of satisfaction in creating art. He proceeded to take a class in metal sculpture—a course that would provide the foundation for his artistic successes. 

Today, John’s focus is metal sculpture, and he works with everything from a chainsaw to a fine paintbrush. Metal is a difficult, yet enjoyable medium with which to work. “I like the challenge of working with [this] material and trying to see what the material’s going to do for you,” he explains. “Sometimes you have to make adjustments to your design … because of the material. I want to, in a sense, work with the material, but also push the material in ways that are, perhaps, unexpected.”

John expects the art he creates to do more than please the eye. He says, “I like my work to be something for the eye to play with and [to be] interesting, but also to be something that has an emotional resonance and a resonance for the mind.” 

Because of the subjective nature of his art, John hopes that those who view his work are able to enter into the piece individually. “I think the art needs to make a demand upon the viewer, and the viewer needs to be willing to engage,” he says. “It’s in this reciprocal relationship that I think art matters [and] that art functions … I see meaning as relational between the object and the way it was created and the viewer.”

Although John does not premeditate the ultimate idea or emotion a piece will convey, he has observed the presence of spiritual elements in each of his projects—a facet that he finds interesting. Referencing his background as the son of a pastor and the entirety of his religious experience, John explains that “… all art reflects aspects of whatever has gone into who that person [the artist] is. Obviously, the religious and spiritual dimension is going to always be there … because its part of my background and makeup.”

Because students come first, John says, the time he is able to spend sculpting is “never enough.”  It is often during vacation time that he is able to finish his projects. “I find it a wonderful antidote to the academic work of reading and writing and working on a computer because I like to work with my hands. … It’s a nice balance to work a professor usually does,” John says.

To view John’s work, visit his website at jmcdowellart.com.

Colleagues & Departments


In December David Bell, a member of the Heritage Singers, performed in Portland in a concert uniting the current members of the group with its founding members, who sang under the name of the Rose City Singers. Over 2000 people attended the concert, which was sponsored by the North Pacific Union Gleaner, and coincided with a feature spread in the magazine about the group’s history. David and the Heritage Singers also performed a full Christmas concert in Portland on December 4. David has been a member of the famed Adventist singing group for 29 years. Other current members are also PUC alumni: Scott Reed, Val (Mace) Mapa, and Shani (Judd) Diehl, as well as sound engineer Greg Mace.

Hillary Elmendorf defended her dissertation on December 20. She is now the proud owner of a Ph.D. in history.

During Christmas vacation, the PUC Library began a new service for students, staff and faculty. The library now has two Apple MacBooks and two Dell NetBooks available to borrow. They come with Microsoft Office, Google Earth, Skype and other software pre-installed and ready to go. The MacBooks come with a VGA-out adapter and the NetBooks are equipped with an HDMI-out cable. They can be checked out for three hours with one three-hour renewal per day. This is a pilot project beginning winter quarter and users will be surveyed to find out how this new service is received and how it might be improved upon in the future. For questions about the laptop lending project, e-mail Patrick Benner (pbenner@puc.edu).

Modern Languages
On December 14, Charo Caballero-Chambers traveled to Texas at the invitation of the Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in the town of Hidalgo. As guest of honor, she was happy to fellowship with members of the church that she and a friend established 25 years ago as door-to-door evangelists in the community. What was once a small group of new believers has become a full-fledged, missionary-minded church, with frequent visitors from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.