It's difficult to categorize Merril McHenry of McPherson. He's lived in many different countries. He's a biologist, artist and teacher with 41 years of college teaching. He's taught over 6000 students and now teaches home schoolers in his office workshop and museum. But it's one of his art projects that got my attention. It's art out of an unlikely subject. Gourds!
When Merril McHenry leaves his home for the few steps it takes him to get to work -- He's entering his office and art gallery.
"I'll give it whatever time it needs to do it right."
In here, you'll sometimes find him working on an unlikely art project….a gourd.
"I get a lot of questions about that because they have never heard of using a gourd in quite this fashion."
Now a gourd is defined as the hard-shelled fruit of various plants whose dried shell is used for bowls and other utensils - Merril also uses it as art.
"The head is the end of one gourd with two pieces of gourd used for ear tufts."
This soft-spoken former college professor who holds a doctorate in ornithology has traveled the world and lived in many foreign countries in his study of biology, ornithology, and art.
Now remember, this art work is from the lowly gourd. In Kansas, there is a weed called a buffalo gourd that grows wild - even from that McHenry makes smaller art.
"These are Kansas gourds. This is a Kansas buffalo gourd and this is also a Kansas buffalo gourd. So it kind of puts together gardening and nature and creativity. It's enjoyable."
Many of the larger gourds he grows in his garden or gets elsewhere. When dried they last for years and turn into exception pieces of art.
"The more you look outside yourself and become interested in other people and things around you the more exciting it all becomes."
His work is cataloged and unique, but this man of nature, art and science is also a man of God.
"You know I have a strong belief that God is the creator of all things, not only the birds and the flowers and us in the world, but cultures as well. People are especially gifts to us and the more we can learn from each other, and from nature, then the more satisfying it becomes."
"The Lord's been good."