Make sure to make it into the Beach Museum of Art before January 28 to catch the last view of the exhibition Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton: You Gotta Have Art.
Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton: You Gotta Have Art
October 11, 2016—January 28, 2017
The Beach Museum of Art’s twentieth anniversary theme, “You Gotta Have Art,” was inspired by the words printed on caps worn by Elizabeth Layton and her husband in many of her self-portraits. The caps were gifts from her friend Don Lambert, the Ottawa Herald reporter who discovered her work in 1977 and helped to establish Layton as an important American artist through his writing and curation of exhibitions. The succinct phrase encapsulates how art was a positive force in Elizabeth Layton’s life. After an unstable marriage that ended in divorce, the death of a son, a lifelong battle with manic depression, and thirteen debilitating electroshock treatments, Layton took her first class in contour drawing and discovered how art could help her heal. Her drawings examined universal human experiences such as aging, death, social injustice, and love through the lens of her own life and body. She demonstrated the power of art in forging personal connections and developing understanding and empathy. In the comment book from her 1992 exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, one visitor wrote: “I am going through a hard time right now and it takes some effort to remember that it’s all a part of life. Your drawings… remind me that other people feel pain and ecstasy, rage and glory. Thank you for celebrating.”
Layton is now represented in the collections of more than one hundred and fifty art institutions in the United States, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She has been the subject of features in Life, People, and on National Public Radio. Lambert facilitated the entry of several Layton drawings into the Beach Museum of Art collection.