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 Hannah Holliday Stewart  (1924 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Texas/New Mexico / Mexico      Known for: abstract sculpture, public installation, teaching

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from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is an obituary of the artist, March 4, 2010:

Houston educator and pioneering female artist Hannah Holliday Stewart died last week in Albuquerque, N.M. She was 82.

Best known for her piece Atropos Key, a gift to the city which has watched over the grassy knoll of Hermann Park's Miller Outdoor Theatre for nearly 40 years, the artist was involved in the Houston art scene with her over-sized sculptures and ceramic work.

The city erected the abstract bronze, which looms atop a hill at nearly 11 feet tall, in 1972. Having her work displayed in such a prominent location was a rare honor then, particularly for a female sculptor.

“It was a quite a coup,” said Christopher Clements, who met Stewart when he was a student at the University of St. Thomas. “Back in the '70s, it really was a man's world, so she was really important for forging a path for women's art.”

Stewart worked with the Houston Woman's Caucus for Art to spotlight emerging female artists with gallery shows and exhibitions.

“She was a tough lady, physically and emotionally,” said Geri Hooks, an agent who represented Stewart from 1975 to 1985. “She had to be to do what she did.”

Hooks lost touch with Stewart when the artist left town, a common story among those who knew her. She was a person who knew what she wanted and went for it, often not even taking the time to say goodbye to those she left behind. It was a trait she developed as a child in Birmingham, Alabama. Stewart was groomed for the debutante scene, but rebelled the moment she went to college.

“Once she was out of the nest, the pearls and gloves went away, and she became an artist,” Clements said. “She was a Southern belle tomboy.”

Stewart's art was driven by her curiosity, something she developed early.

“When I was 8 years old I asked my mother what the wind looked like,” Stewart wrote in 1984, trying to identify the spark that lead her toward art.

She arrived in Houston in the mid-1970s after graduate school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Mich., and began teaching shortly after at the University of St. Thomas in the studio art department.

“All of her spare time went to her art,” said Nancy Jircik, chairwoman of the art department during Stewart's tenure at St. Thomas. “She was an excellent teacher, very direct and easy to work with.”

A lifelong artist, when Stewart wasn't physically in the studio, she always had a sketchbook nearby. She spent the last three years in New Mexico working out of a studio and creating new work.

“She absolutely loved new information and to talk about ideas, she was just someone that was never boring to have dinner and a conversation with … one of my favorite people that I ever met,” Clements said. “You know when they talk about the salons in Europe and France where people gather to share ideas and talk? That was Hannah … always learning.”

There are no plans for a funeral service, but Clements plans to travel to Albuquerque in the near future to hold a memorial for his friend.


Biography from Matthews Gallery:
Hannah Holliday Stewart (1924 - 2010) had her work exhibited in over 40 venues including The Smithsonian, Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and others. Her work and her career were instrumental to the increased recognition of women sculptors in the United States.  A writer for The International Sculpture magazine wrote :

(She) "forged the way for serious women sculptors. Uniting Greek mythology and contemporary energy concepts ... (her) work fuses both primitive and futuristic sensibilities."

At a time when the art world marginalized women artists, she chose to create her own world from metal and stone and helped lead the way for a generation of women sculptors. Though she had achieved a high level of success and recognition, she eventually turned her back on the art establishment and continued to work in isolation for the last twenty years of her life. After her death in 2010, sculptures, consisting of work that spanned her entire career, were discovered in her studio - from pieces that are only a few inches tall to one bronze that is over nine feet.

A written statement discovered in one of her notebooks eloquently records her own thoughts on the origins and principles underlying her art work:

"When I was eight years old, I asked my mother what the wind really looked like. I remember spending hours ... days ... sitting with my hands open wide or running with my lightning-bug jar, hoping to catch the wind. I wanted to SEE the wind, that magical force that could bend the huge oak tree in a summer storm, gently caress me on a hot summer day or sing to me as it played through a tree or around the house.

This early interest in natural forces has sustained me throughout my life as a sculptor. My goal is to render visible the hidden realities of pent-up contained energy. The direct fields of reference are Sacred Geometry, Astronomy, Myth & Physics ... Each Sculpture is an energy form, the movement arrested in space, a form sustaining an energy. My work is a response to these patterns and delineations and communicates with viewers through the universality of symbolism and form."

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