Nell Gottlieb, Texas Sculpture Group
From Austin, Texas
Almost a decade ago, I began to explore what it meant to grow up as a white woman in Alabama, under the influence of the Lost Cause mythology and of Jim Crow. My family heritage of slave-ownership was brought front and center when I inherited our former plantation house in 2108. As an artist, I work to materialize memory through the use of imagery and objects and to subject this memory to art’s alchemy. My work has evolved to include social practice through my service as president of Klein Arts & Culture. We are working together to develop a shared narrative for the future, beginning with black and white descendants of the Wallace Plantation and reaching outward. Descendant homecomings, facilitated discussion, performance and visual art, and education are among the methods we are using for this ongoing process. Art, in particular, has the capacity to raise consciousness about race, to express a painful past and to move on to a brighter future.
Nell Gottlieb works in multiple media to reexamine her coming of age, white and female in the Jim Crow South, and her heritage of racism and white supremacy as a descendent of slave-owning cotton planters. Her ongoing project, Nostos Algos, considers the pain of returning to the South after a long absence, while confronting the racist mythologies and complicated legacies of the region. In 2019, Gottlieb completed the Block Program of the Glassell School of Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She has shown her work in national, regional, and local juried shows, had a solo exhibit, Choked on Cotton, in 2020 at the Community Artists’ Collective in Houston, and has two works in the Hobby Airport Collection. In 2018, after inheriting her family’s 1841 vacant house, she began and gifted the house to a non-profit organization, Klein Arts & Culture, to address past and current wrongs related to race and social justice. She is past-president of ClayHouston, has served on the board of the Visual Arts Alliance, and is a member of the SECAC. She holds a BA and MA (psychology) from Emory University and a PhD (sociology) from Boston University. She is professor emeritus of public health education at The University of Texas at Austin, where she taught from 1980-2011. A native of Alabama, she moved to Texas in 1980.