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Friday, January 28, 2022

Life + Arts

Cougars receive local art grant


Sculpting major Sapphire Williams used yarn as a part of a 2010 projects called “Untitled.” Along with graduates Gissette Padilla and Nancy Douthey, Williams was awarded the Liz Alexander Visual Arts Award, which is a one-time grant of $1,000 to be used for their current artistic endeavors. | Photo courtesy of Sapphire Williams

The Houston Arts Alliance presented two UH graduates and one senior with the Liz Alexander Visual Arts Award in October.

The award is a one-time grant in memory of Liz Alexander, who worked as the grants coordinator for the Houston Arts Alliance until her death in April of 2010.

“We wanted to do something in her name,” Houston Arts Alliance Programs and Services Coordinator Janel Badrina said. “This year, we raised funds to distribute in a one-time grant to a visual artist.”

Family, friends and former colleagues raised funds for the grant in honor of Alexander’s fervent support of emerging artists.

“Liz Alexander was an artist in her own right,” Badrina said. “She was very passionate in supporting other artists, especially women and minorities.”

As such, sculpting senior Sapphire Willams and UH alumni Gissette Padilla and Nancy Douthey received $1,000 to use for an individual project or continuing education in visual and media arts.

With the grant, Williams will continue researching women in the Land Art Movement in the 1960s and 1970s — a project that started from a thirst for knowledge that wasn’t entirely quenched.

“When I started this project, I got as many books on land art as I could,” Williams said. “All the books were mainly about men and only a few women would be mentioned — but it was always at the end of the book.

“This project is mainly bred from my own frustration, because I’m a sculptor and it’s mostly men. Nothing has really changed since the movement started,” she said. “There have been advances in women’s rights, but it’s still really hard for female artists to work and get funding.”

As a part of her research, she’s gathering information on female land artists of the time — a task that has been made difficult because of poor documentation and newer developments in the area.

“I’ve been calling studios trying to track down pieces,” she said. “A lot of times, they’ll tell me that the piece isn’t there anymore and the land is a strip-mall or a suburb now.”

Regardless, the sculpting senior continues to make headway in a project that will eventually take her on a journey to experience those women’s work and interact with the land upon which they were erected — even if the land has been reappropriated for other uses.

Though the East coast is home to most of the pieces by female artists, Williams hopes to experience the predominantly-male land art on the West coast as well.

“The finished project will be a website based off my travels and a body of work that will be on display in a gallery somewhere,” she said. “Most of it will be in the form of a photo or video.”

Outside of her studies, Williams is a member of the CNDR art collective, through which UH art students meet and show their work at various galleries around town.

Williams was also curator to her show at the G Gallery in the Heights called “A Pixelated Bunch,” which focused on the human relationship with technology and how ubiquitous it has become.

As a sculpting major, Williams strays from using a traditional medium like clay and instead takes a more modern approach to her artwork, which allows the art speak for itself.

“My medium is ideas,” she said. “I have to have an idea, however it manifests itself doesn’t really matter.

“It could be an object, a photo or a painting — it doesn’t really matter as long as the idea is present.”

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