Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton
October 4, 2007 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton was coaxed by her sister at the age of 68 to take a blind contour drawing class in Ottawa, Kansas, in order to possibly help alleviate her 35-year bout with clinical depression. By the time of her death in 1993, her work (article includes quicktime link of Elizabeth discussing her work and photo gallery) had been shown in several museums, including the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, and celebrated as an honest depiction of aging, mental health, and feminist issues (google book link) in the US.

Her grandaughters/great-grandaughters put together a website recently, including several of her pieces. I also highly recommend this book, but you might want to pick it up at the library.
posted by sleepy pete (15 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work at a place that had a framed picture of a family saying grace over Kentucky Fried chicken. It hung right in front of my reception desk and I wished I knew who did it because I thought it was the best. Thank you for this post! I'm off to find a print of "Thanksgiving."
posted by Foam Pants at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2007

Oh, I love these very much. Thank you!
posted by birdie birdington at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2007

This is wonderful, thank you. I'd never heard of her before.
posted by jokeefe at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2007

I did blind contour when I was a kid in art classes after school. I just sat down with a permanent pen and a piece of paper at my desk to it again. Interesting result. I think I need to invest in a heavy art pad again.
posted by parmanparman at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2007

thanks for the good post!
posted by ms.jones at 4:30 PM on October 4, 2007

This is a GREAT post. Thank you!
posted by perilous at 4:52 PM on October 4, 2007

Very good post. Thanks very much for introducing me to the artwork of an interesting and admirable woman!
posted by LadyBonita at 5:40 PM on October 4, 2007

I've loved Grannie Layton for ages. Her influence has been pretty stealthy, and I don't know how regionally confined, but I tell you what: in the 90s in eastern Kansas, it seemed every coffee shop wall or arts in the park-type fair always had pieces in her line. Meaning, either drawn in a similar fashion to that shaky-line contour style, or with that same sly sense of humor (one that I remember vividly was an old farmer holding up a very, very large zucchini with a devilish grin). That sounds like small potatoes, I'm sure. But she mattered a lot to and inspired a great many people in a part of the country where the arts are not exactly priority one. She made people consider some fairly radical ideas (especially regarding aging and mental health) not by being didactic but by cracking them up. She makes me miss my own grandma out in western Kansas, 96 and still living alone and still telling people exactly what she thinks and making them laugh too much to be offended, something fierce. Thanks, sleepy. You did good.
posted by melissa may at 6:07 PM on October 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Seconding perilous' enthusiasm, and echoing the thought. This is a great post and deeply inspiring too. Knew nothing about contour art or this kind of art therapy. wow. It's breath taking. Some of Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton works move me to tears. So many deep feelings. Just love her art! It's raw, true, authentic, powerful, interesting and much more than likable. Thanks sleepy pete.
posted by nickyskye at 8:03 PM on October 4, 2007

Good stuff, nice post.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:46 PM on October 4, 2007

Thank you so much for linking Grandma's website here. We love to share her and her artwork with as many people as possible. Please keep checking back, there are plans for her re-matted and re-framed pictures to tour in the near future. Also, if anyone is interested in her catalog of prints that are available to purchase you can find that at www.lawrenceartscenter.com!
Thanks again!
Kathy Tracy,
Granddaughter of Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton
posted by Great 48 at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh god, this is wonderful.

I feel just like this... when I'm not feeling like this. She is completely amazing.

Hi, Great 48! Lovely to see you here.
posted by taz at 6:37 AM on October 5, 2007

You're very welcome, Great 48. Thanks for the link to the prints as well.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2007

Whoops, not link, website.

Here's a direct link to the Lawrence Arts Center site.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:11 AM on October 5, 2007

I am going to purchase a print of Grandma's to auction off at a silent auction for our 3sistersracing.com charity, The Arthritis Community Services early next year. (Grandma suffered with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is evidenced in the drawing of her hands, and I unfortunately inherited RA from her, so this is a cause I know would be as near and dear to her heart as it is mine.) What I was wondering, what picture do you guys think would make a good one to auction, from those available in the catalog, I am planning on getting an original size print. I know the story behind each of them, so am obviously biased! and just wondered which one would appeal the most to the general public? FYI: Most of those bidding know of her and her work, so know the story behind the artwork, and I plan on giving one of her books with the picture. Thanks for any help you can give me!
posted by Great 48 at 8:49 PM on October 14, 2007

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