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Sold at Auction: Betty Woodman

(1930-2018)

Biography

Elizabeth Woodman (née Abrahams; May 14, 1930 – January 2, 2018) was an American ceramic artist.

Betty Woodman was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, to Minnie and Henry Abrahams. Her parents were progressive socialists and her mother promoted a feminist viewpoint. During seventh grade, stifled by the home economics courses young women were relegated to, she successfully fought her way into a woodshop class, wherein she learned to use a lathe. Betty started pottery classes at age 16 and immediately took to clay. She attended the School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University in New York from 1948 until 1950.

Woodman began her career in the 1950s as a production potter. Her career moved from functional pottery to fresh and exuberant art culminating in a retrospective show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2006, the first such retrospective for a living, female ceramicist, and a solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 2016 with the title Theatre of the Domestic. She was a professor of art at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1978-1998. Following her daughter's death in 1981, Woodman's work subsequently shifted, evolving from functional pottery to the more abstract, thus transforming her career. She received an honorary doctorate from CU in 2007. Woodman convinced city of Boulder officials in the 1950s to fund the Pottery Lab, making it one of the first recreational pottery programs in the U.S. Her vision was to have students make pottery for fun but also develop their craft into a career. The Pottery Lab's creation resulted in around 100 kilns being constructed in the Boulder area.

Betty Woodman met George Woodman in a pottery class she was teaching in Boston in 1950. They married in 1953. George Woodman was a painter and photographer. He headed the University of Colorado Boulder art department. He died in March 2017. Betty and George Woodman had two children. Their daughter, Francesca Woodman, was a photographer who died by suicide in 1981 at age 22.Their son, Charles Woodman, is an artist.

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