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Special Collections receives Houston artist Dorothy Hood archives

Newspaper clippings from Mexico showcase some of Dorothy Hood’s most memorable achievements are just one part of the collection. | Autumn Rendall/The Cougar

A collection of archives that document the lives and careers of notable Houston artists Dorothy Hood and her husband José María Velasco Maidana have been donated to Special Collections.

The donation comes from the Art Museum of South Texas and features personal papers, scrapbooks, photographs, journals, catalogs, artifacts, audio/video recordings and more from Hood and Velasco Maidana.

Dorothy Hood is certainly one of the premier Houston artists of all time,” said Christian Kelleher, head of Special Collections. “Someone who really developed a great reputation in the art community, not only in Houston, but nationally and internationally.”

Hood was a Texas painter born in 1908 and became best known for her Modernist works. Her husband Velasco Maidana was a Bolivian composer and filmmaker born in 1899.

Hood hails Bryan, but has also lived in Houston, Providence, Rhode Island, New York City and Mexico City.

Hood’s work “abandoned conventionality” and ventured into big themes such as space, presence, spirituality, emotion and color, Sara Morgan said, interim director of AMST. Hood emerged as a powerful, female face of Houston’s art scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

“To have a woman be really at the forefront of all of that really was important at that period,” Kelleher said.

Part of the collection includes pamphlets from some of Hood’s first art shows in Mexico, and one even features a poem written by the famous poet Pablo Neruda as an ode to her.

“It’s great to find such a rich archival collection and one that documents not only the life and career of a really significant Houston artist but also the art scene of Mexico in the ’40s, ’50s, and then Houston in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s,”  Kelleher said.

AMST acquired a major collection of Hood’s works in 2001, along with the personal papers of Hood and Velasco Maidana. The museum aims to advance the “awareness, knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment” of the visual arts for the residents and visitors of South Texas.

“It reflects her place in the art community and then also expands into that art community to show that really important period of development for Houston’s art community,” Kelleher said.

Her work is in the collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and many other institutions.

Some of Hood’s oil on canvas paintings can be found through the Public Art of the University of Houston System. “The Angel’s Key” hangs on the wall of the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre Lobby. At UHCL, the Bayou Building houses “Time the Bridge of Doors.”

The archives will be preserved, digitized, and made available to anyone that’s interested through the Special Collections department.

“We welcome certainly students or scholars, researchers or the community to contact me and to come in and see the archives,” Kelleher said. “If they have any questions or want to use it, we’ll do our best to work with them to even before it’s fully cataloged to support their research and scholarship.”

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