Janet Lippincott: A 70-Year Retrospective

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Among the personal artifacts that will appear in our upcoming retrospective for Janet Lippincott (1918-2007), there’s a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings. The folio of yellowed papers chronicles a tipping point in the New Mexico artist’s career—and the many wonders that came after—but it’s not the whole story. For the first half of Lippincott’s life, success was obscured behind considerable hurdles on the long path ahead. And yet, there’s one constant that carried her through. It’s visible in the portraits scattered through Lippincott’s scrapbook: a fiery, direct stare that never wavered.

On Friday, December 2 from 5-7 pm, Matthews Gallery debuts Janet Lippincott: A 70-Year Retrospective. The artwork and artifacts on display will complete the picture of an artist who was defiantly prolific long before she received recognition. Lippincott had a vision for her life, and it remained unmarred despite injuries and setbacks.

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Lippincott was born in Brooklyn, New York, and exhibited artistic talent from an early age. Her family lived in Paris for part of her childhood, where she hungrily absorbed the aesthetic innovations of Picasso and Matisse. As a teenager, she studied at the Art Students League of New York, following in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keeffe and other modernists who would become art pioneers of the West.  “I didn’t like to be told what to do,” she later recounted to a longtime art dealer. “So I quit that and I went off to war.”

As a member of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, Lippincott served under General Eisenhower, and once put General Patton in his place when he barged into Ike’s office. During a German blitzkrieg of London, she broke her back when a building collapsed. Back in the States, she recovered and boldly embarked on her next adventure. Using the GI Bill, she traveled to Taos to study under Emil Bisttram.

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“Bisttram told her flat out that she didn’t have what it took to be an artist,” wrote Westword in Lippincott’s obituary. “She spent the next half a century proving him wrong.” After furthering her studies in Colorado and California, she moved to Santa Fe for good. It was here that her career took off, with a series of group and solo exhibitions across the region in the 1960’s and 70’s. In 1972, Bisttram penned a positive review of her solo exhibition at Santa Fe’s legendary Jamison Gallery.

Lippincott had proved her point, never straying from the unapologetic ambition that marked her generation. Like O’Keeffe or Mabel Dodge Lujan, she was a New Woman of the West, who engaged in the gritty hand combat that led to sweeping social changes of the 20th century. Near the end of her life, she was awarded the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

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Join us for Janet Lippincott: A 70-Year Retrospective on Friday, December 2 from 5-7 pm to celebrate this pioneer of New Mexico modernism, and discover the art and artifacts that were the kindling for her inextinguishable passion. Click here to RSVP on Facebook. 

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