Elgin’s Margo Sawyer wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Margo Sawyer, the Elgin-based artist whose art intersects sculpture and architecture, has won a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced 173 fellowships (including two joint fellowships) in arts and sciences for 2018. This honor comes with up to $45,000 to support one of the winners’ future projects.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship would allow me time and resources to cultivate designs of spaces transcendent,” Sawyer says. “Public places that foster contemplation.”

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Artist Margo Sawyer. Contributed

RELATED: Contemporary Austin collection to Blanton Museum.

Sawyer, 59, has been on the University of Texas art faculty for 30 years. For decades, she has transformed old brick structures in Elgin into multi-use arts spaces.

She is the niece of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas and her father was one of the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps in the 1950s. He met her British mother in Accra, Ghana. Her grandfather founded the NAACP in Topeka, Kan. and helped initiate the legal action that became Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation.

Sawyer grew up the  U.S., U.K. and Cameroon. In 1973, her mother took her to Egypt during the Yom Kippur War.

“I was about 15 and it was an experience that made me the sculptor I am today,” Sawyer says. “We were the first and only 17 tourists allowed in the country. I spent 30 minutes alone in Tutankhamun’s tomb — an obsession as with many people ever since. The experience at Abu Simbel, where the monuments are carved into the living rock, a union of sculpture, architecture and painting united, has been my modus operandi all my life.”

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From Margo Sawyer’s recent solo show, ‘Reflect: Reflector,’ at the San Antonio Play House.

She is currently working on a glass colored spiral immersive sculpture for the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo.

“The viewer will be enveloped in a pool of color,” Sawyer says. “I just completed windows for a private chapel and also I’m working on a commission for the University of Houston all with hand-painted glass being made with Franz Mayer of Munich, who did the exquisite windows for Ellsworth Kelly‘s ‘Austin.”’

RELATED: Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ worships light.

Sawyer realizes this is a big turning point during a long career of many achievements, including many works placed in private homes, museum collections and public spaces, along with wide recognition in the Austin arts community, including the Austin Critics Table designation as 2015 Artist of the Year.

“This is an amazing moment for me,” she says. “I have been making sculpture since I was 14 years old, and am honored that I have been a sculptor throughout my life. This year feels transformative and the recognition is monumental, a testament to the personal commitment and belief in the vision I have created.”

 

Get a sneak peek inside Ellsworth Kelly’s stunning ‘Austin’ at UT

The much-anticipated opening of Ellsworth Kelly‘s’ “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus, is not until Feb. 18. But now we can give you a look inside.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Designed by late American modern artist Kelly, the $23 million project created by the Blanton Museum of Art instantly takes its place as a crown jewel of Austin art.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Scroll down to see more photos, read what some people are saying about the work and to find out how you can see “Austin” for yourself once it opens.

“It will be a bold new landmark for the university and the city,” predicts Blanton director Simone Wicha, who spent years putting together “Austin,” colloquially known as the “Ellsworth Kelly Building” or just “The Ellsworth” or sometimes “The Kelly.” “Inevitably, it will change the way the world sees Austin.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ culminates the career of one of the greatest of modern artists,” says Richard Shiff, an art professor who directs UT’s Center for the Study of Modernism. “Kelly conceived of (it) as a single aesthetic experience. ‘Austin’ is culture in a pure form. Its appeal is universal.”

“‘Austin’ not only showcases Kelly’s early appreciation of historical European art and architecture,” curator Carter Foster says, “it also marries this passion with the transformative themes that he would discover over the course of his life. I hope that, with the help of this exhibition, everyone who visits the work will come away with the same sense of awe that I do.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The opening of ‘Austin’ further cements the Blanton as an international cultural destination,” Wicha says. “The broad geographic support we received for this project is reflective of the audience we anticipate visiting Kelly’s monumental achievement.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

HOW TO SEE ‘AUSTIN’

Starting Feb. 18, Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ will be open during regular Blanton hours; entry is included with museum admission. Go to the Visitors Services desk inside the museum’s east wing to obtain tickets. Find out more at blantonmuseum.org.

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ICYMI: How high design can deliver the art of living

This story about how Heather McKinney and Brian Carlson of McKinney York Architects helped artist and educator Katelena Hernandez Cowles and her husband, financial planer James Cowles, plan a home fit for the rest of their lives has enjoyed an afterlife on social media.

READ FULL STORY HERE.

Katelena Hernandez Cowles and James Cowles balanced their personalities throughout their Tarrytown home. Stephen Spillman for American-Statesman

SAMPLE:

Cut straight to the crucial tip: Talk to your designer. And listen. You probably won’t be sorry.

Fourteen years ago, Katelena Hernandez Cowles and James Cowles talked and listened to Heather McKinney and Brian Carlson of McKinney York Architects. And they could not be happier with their pliable three-story Tarrytown house built above a dry creek for the couple and their two children, Celia and Gabriel.

Instead of limiting their ideas to the wants and needs of the time, they collaborated with their architects to cook up a house that they can adapt for the rest of their lives, taking into account inevitabilities such as maturing children, aging parents and life’s hard-to-predict thunderbolts.

Take their tall, airy living room flanked on two sides by hanging art and on the other two sides by a long, open kitchen and a tree-friendly deck with a fireplace. At first, the creative and energetic family furnished this inviting central room with four cozy, double-wide chairs equipped with wheels, since the room’s function fluctuated wildly.

“When kids were young, we’d clear the chairs out of the way to set up huge wooden train-track layouts and had group painting sessions with long rolls of paper, science experiments, paper airplane battles from the balcony down into washtubs on floor,” says Katelena, 46, an artist and educator. “The kids learned to ride bikes and to roller skate in a circular pattern around the central staircase. The Brazilian cumaru wood flooring was so hard it was indestructible. We finally resealed the main floor 11 years later.”