|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Connie Zehr is a conceptual, installation artist and professor, since 1982, at the Center for the Arts at Claremont Graduate University in California. Her basic medium is sandsand of different colors and types collected from various locations. She pours the sand on gallery floors, forming, among other things, cones that seem directly analogous to the female breast.|
Zehr came from a mixed religious background; her father's family was Amish, her mother Catholic. She grew up in small Ohio town, but the family moved often. As a child, Zehr lived in India for two years while her father served as an agricultural advisor in Delhi. She had an experience of art there, drawing the landscape and town with an American woman who was a commercial artist.
She later studied at Michigan State University for one year, but, brief as it was, a ceramics class there launched her toward being an artist. She entered Ohio State University the following year as a sculpture major where she went on to earn her B.F.A. degree.
After college, Zehr married sculptor David Elder, and like so many women of the day with artistic leanings, got side-tracked in the raising of children. While her husband worked as an artist, she took care of the house, the family and a sick child. Eventually, frustrated and angry, she got her grandfather to give her her inheritance early, so she could buy materials and set up a studio in her home. She and her husband divided his studio, so that each had half.
Zehr started making large plaster pieces which she painted. But they were so big, she couldn't move them. She liked Claes Oldenburg, so, taking a cue from his soft sculpture, began to make sewn sculpture, only partially filling them, first with plastic beads thenfatefully--with sand, so that parts were solid, others floppy. Of course, the use of sand was key. She evolved to using just the sand, cones of it poured on sheets of vinyl which she manipulated into shapes related to the human body. She has said she sees the earth in California and the West as a massive body with forms and rhythms.
Zehr's first show at Mount San Antonio College in Los Angeles was comprised of mounds of sand. She later exhibited mounds of white sand at the Pasadena Art Museum and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, using nineteen dozen eggs to place a brown egg at the top of each mound (a nipple?). Another show at California State University at Los Angeles followed.
In 1974, Zehr exhibited more sand with hand-formed, unfired terra cotta in it at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in Chicago. By 1975, she had reached the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition in New York City, displaying "Red Carpet," seventeen thousand two hundred eighty square inches of red sand (120 x 144) with unfired terra cotta shaped like torn pieces of paper in multiple rows.
The year 1976 was an interesting one. It was Zehr's first time working outdoors, at Artpark in upstate New York; but nature and rainy weather interfered with her theoretical plans for neat piles of shale sand, washing them away. She may have gotten the message of man's puny intentions at the disposal of an infinitely greater power. In 1975, she had received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to film her ideas and work.
As a conceptual artist, working with transitory materials where the art work no longer exists once the exhibition comes to an end, Zehr, as an artist, leaves nothing behindno Sistine Chapel ceilings, no Van Gogh landscapes, no Bernini sculptures--just photographic images of past installations.
1981-1982, University of California, Irvine, Visiting Artist
1981, UCLA Extension
1981, Spring, Claremont Graduate School, Visiting Artist
1978-1980, California State University, Fullerton, Visiting Artist
1977, Fall, Occidental College
1987, Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg-Feitelson Arts Foundation Mentor Grant
1986, National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Artist Grants
1984, National Endowment for the Arts, Landmark Projects, Art Collaboration
1975, National Endowment for the Arts, Individual Artist Grants
1999, Mural Project, Claremont Community Foundation, Claremont, CA
1992, Transit Center Art Committee, City of Claremont, CA
1991-present, Visual Art Committee, Claremont Community Foundation, Claremont, CA
1987, P.O.D.(Process Oriented Design) Santa Ana, CA
1986, Art Selection Panel for Grand/Hope Park Community Redevelopment Agency, City of Los Angeles, CA
2002, Episodes, Newspace, Los Angeles, CA
1998, Connie Zehr, Harris Art Gallery, University of LaVerne, CA
1991, Complementary, Weingart Gallery, Occidental College, Eagle Rock, CA
1989, A Woods in the Clearing, Santa Monica College Art Gallery, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA
1988, Influence III, West Gallery, Claremont College Graduate School, Claremont, CA
1987, Connie Zehr, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China
1986, Threshold, California State University, Fullerton, CA
1985, Connie Zehr, Flashback 1967-1985, Barnsdall Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1983, Here/There, University of California, Irvine, CA
1979, Drawing/Withdrawing, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Artists' Space, Santa Barbara, CA
1975, Eggs, "Matrix II," Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
Solar Circumstances, Salvatore Ala Galeria, Milan, Italy
Inner Sea, Ana Leonowen Gallery, College of Art and Design,
Halifax, Nova Scotia
From the Mountain, Orlando Gallery, Encino, CA
1974, Wace Cave, The Changing Room, Orlando Gallery, Encino, CA
1970, Shifted Sand, Cypress Junior College, Cypress, CA
1969, Fallen Sand, Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA
From "Originals: American Women Artists" by Eleanor Munro
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