The distinctive and historically noteworthy ceramic art and design of the late Laredo-born artist Helen Richter Watson will be celebrated in a special exhibit opening at Texas A&M International University's Center for the Fine and Performing Arts' Art Gallery on Thursday, February 5 from 6-8 p.m.
Titled "Like the Clay in the Potter's Hand: An Artist's Life Remembered, Helen Richter Watson 1926-2003," the exhibit will be in place through April 8, 2004.
Watson, whose childhood art works were made of clay dredged from the banks of the Rio Grande, footsteps from her home, went on to become a revered artist and educator. She passed away this past summer.
She earned her BA at California's Scripps College and her MFA at Claremont Graduate School. In addition to serving on the faculty at Chaffey College and Mount San Antonio College, she was the Chair of the Ceramics Department at the famed Otis Art Institute from 1958-1979.
Watson, known by the nickname "Whitey", exhibited and lectured nationally and won a prestigious fellowship from the Swedish government to conduct research there. Her commissioned works dot the country, with several finding homes in Laredo businesses, churches and private collections.
Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president and close friend of the artist, said the University is honored to have the Watson exhibit become the first by a Laredo-born artist to be featured in the new Center for the Fine and Performing Arts' Gallery.
"I can't think of a more fitting tribute to Whitey. I am saddened that she is not here to add her humorous anecdotes and trademark wit, but the art we will present is Helen's essence: classic yet colorful, composed but challenging, centered and horizon-stretching. Her art should continue to touch and inspire us and this exhibit will make this possible," Dr. Keck said.
Janet Krueger, TAMIU associate professor of Art co-curated the exhibit with visiting professor of art, Alma Haertlin. Krueger said the experience has been memorable.
"We had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Helen in her studio as we laid the groundwork for this exhibit prior to her untimely death. Her involvement was complete and her passion inspiring. Together we moved through her remarkable artistic life and, with difficulty, isolated those pieces which she felt best represented her art. As an artist myself, I found this experience affirming," she noted, "Helen was a professional throughout her life, she cared deeply about her work. Her involvement should serve and inspiration and example to our young artists -- art is not something that you retire from -- it is a life's work."
Writing in the Exhibit brochure, Richard Wright, TAMIU associate professor of Art History, said that Watson's integrative approach helped to guarantee her place in American ceramic arts of the 20th Century.
"Overall, it is Watson's complexly integrative approach - whether blending different aesthetic strategies, media or ceramic technologies -- that rings true in all her works, regardless of their size, purpose or period of creation...Helen Watson's place in American ceramic arts of the 20th Century is secure and her influence has been profound as both an artist and teacher...," Dr. Wright offers.
Longtime friend and fellow Laredoan Marti Franco, who also contributes to the Exhibit's brochure, noted the spiritual quality of Watson's work: " The nobility and elegance of Helen's work makes the figures stand with great dignity...we recognize this dignity as the spiritual art of clay."
Some 32 selections are included in the exhibit, spanning Watson's phenomenal career and artistic growth. Among the most striking in scale are the Saguaros (1974), enormous revisitations of the famed sentinel-like cacti of the desert. Other pieces are dwarfed in comparison, but offer equally engaging looks at Watson's command of her medium.
The exhibit is open Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. For additional information, contact the Department of the Fine and Performing Arts at 326.2654. Larger groups are encouraged to make advance arrangements for viewing the exhibit.
The exhibit will run through April 8.