Looking Back On the Great Lakes Hocking River Navigation Company< < Back to
Robert “Bob” Borchard moved from the suburbs of Chicago into the historic building of the former Guysville Hotel in the summer of 1966 after procuring a position with Ohio University as an art professor.
Under Bob’s artful eye, the structure would morph into the playfully monikered “Great Lakes and Hocking River Navigation Company,” a multi-room testament to all things strange and beautiful: rearing elephant figurines and flexing red glass whales posing in windowsills; tiny skeleton figurines sitting on coffee cups; colorful rooms crowded with paintings and photographs. A little like a museum where all the work is unidentified and it’s up to the viewer to decide whether they’re looking at a pricey antique or something small discarded without care that Bob found and incorporated into his home.
Bob would go on to become a beloved professor emeritus of art at Ohio University. He championed the idea that everything is art and that everyone is entirely capable, at all times, of making art.
He passed away this spring at the age of 89; leaving behind him innumerable sketchbooks, enormous painted canvases, collections of books, knickknacks, and more stories than one could ever count.
Saturday, August 19, many of Bob’s collections and possessions will be auctioned off starting at 10 a.m. at his old home.
“As an artist, my dad had an eye for things. He never was interested in having things that were particularly valuable,” said Bob’s son, regional musician John Borchard, in an interview just a few days before the auction. “He picked things because he found them attractive or interesting or weird.”
Some of the items that will be up for grabs on Saturday are listed here; including Egyptian seated cat bookends, more than 60 pieces of silver flatware, and thousands of works of art by Bob and his many colleagues and students.
“All of us kids have some of his paintings that we particularly like, and I know that I don’t even have room to display those in my home,” said John. “There is a lot of cool stuff in that house, but how much cool stuff can you have?”
John said the property, located at 6971 State Route 329 in Guysville, will be sold at some time in the future by the family.
“As an artist, my dad had an eye for things. He never was interested in having things that were particularly valuable. He picked things because he found them attractive or interesting or weird.” – John Borchard, Bob Borchard’s son
“He believed that art was a way to express yourself; a language that you develop – that you might not be able to paint like Michelangelo, but who cares?” said John. “I remember as a kid we’d all draw a lot, and he’d always get upset when I’d want to erase something – he’d say ‘we don’t use erasers! You utilize what you have and make it into what you want to see.’ He was a firm believer that there are no such things as mistakes.”
As John and his siblings prepare for the auction and the memorial service for their father (which will take place on Sunday, August 20 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, 184 Longview Heights Road) they look back on the inextirpable mark he left on their lives and the lives of so many others.
“One of the things that you see in the artwork in the house is the way in which my dad collected and displayed things; he had an incredibly identifiable aesthetic,” said John. “I think that all of my siblings and I would say that that aesthetic is something we inherited from him – it’s another way to look at the world around you.”