Featured: TX Artist ♀
Elisabet Ney was born in Munster, Westphalia on January 26, 1833. She spent much of her childhood in the studio of her father, a stonecutter and mason. As a teen, against her parents’ wishes, she applied for and was refused admission in the Munich Art Academy. Undaunted, she reapplied and was accepted—on a trial basis. Within four months, she became first woman ever formally accepted in the Academy. Two years later, she graduated magna cum laude and was awarded a scholarship to study in Berlin—as the first woman in the Berlin Academy’s sculpting program.
She was chosen to work alongside master sculptor Christian Rauch. She was introduced to the stimulating intellectual life of the capital, while obtaining increasingly prestigious commissions of thinkers, artists, politicians, and royalty, including the benevolent patronage of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Early in her career, Elisabet met a young Scotsman, Edmund Montgomery, a promising young physician and rising philosopher. They were married in 1863 in the Canary Islands. Exclaiming “I belong to no man,” she never took his name, nor did they ever acknowledge their marriage.
When the Franco-Prussian War erupted in 1870, Ney and Montgomery were in Munich, where she enjoyed a flourishing clientele. Because of her outspoken support of democracy and friendship with noted political figures, the Prussian police took interest; they were concerned that, given her unique access to royalty (particularly Ludwig II), she could be passing secrets. A week later a pregnant Ney and Montgomery escaped to the United States.
Ney and Montgomery traveled through the East and Midwest but finally chose Texas as their home—drawn to the lush landscape of an abandoned plantation, Liendo, near present day Hempstead. For more than a decade, Elisabet put her career aside and devoted herself to the daily tasks of running the farm and raising her children, while Montgomery wrote philosophical treatises and practiced medicine. Sadly, their firstborn, Arthur, passed away from diphtheria as a toddler. Their other son, Lorne, grew to be as rebellious as his mother, secretly enrolling in Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders under a pseudonym and accompanying him to Cuba.
In 1892, Elisabet was encouraged to apply for the commission to model Texas heroes Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She won the commission, and with the money she purchased the land that would become her new creative home in Austin. Ney exclaimed, “I have sculpted the great men of Europe. Now I shall sculpt the wild men of Texas!”
Austin, state capital and home of the new University of Texas, proved to be the ideal place for the artist to establish her studio home and salon, Formosa, where local thinkers and creators would mingle with visiting dignitaries, artists, and performers. Here she spent almost all her time until her death in 1907.
Her final masterpiece, the marble Lady Macbeth, stands in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American Art. In 1911, four years after her death, the Texas Fine Arts Association was founded at Formosa in her honor. The site has been a museum ever since, and is now a City of Austin Historic Landmark, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, a Texas State Archeological Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Formosa is the only Texas property included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Artists' Homes and Studios special interest group.
Miss Ney’s work has been exhibited on loan at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Elisabet Ney Museum
City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department
There is a very simple way to describe the work of Austin, Texas-based visual artist Ysabel LeMay: W.O.W. It stands for ‘Wonderful Other Worlds’, the panoramas of natural splendor she creates up through the process of hypercollage. Her composite landscapes, the real world remixed to paradisal perfection, are so vividly realized that one feels drawn not just to view but to step into them.
In 2010, LeMay was announced the winner of the KiptonART 2011 Rising Star Program, an initiative to promote and advance promising new artists. From that success followed over 70 exhibitions of LeMay’s work around the globe. Her work has been acquired for the corporate collections of Chevron, Johnsonville, Bloomingdale’s and Bacardi, to name a few. In 2013, LeMay participated in the Texas Biennial at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio, and in 2015, she represents Texas at the fourth edition of Women to Watch, at Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Born and raised in Quebec, Canada, LeMay fastened her connection to the natural world as a small child, at her family’s secluded cottage in the north of the province. Though always most at peace in the wilderness, it is in the jungle of the advertising world that LeMay honed the craft of visual expression. Over the course of 15 years, she handled graphic design, art direction, and the operation of her own agency.
The moment came, though, when she sought a more rewarding and beneficial path for her creativity. LeMay refocused initially on painting and then photography, with which she would collect the raw materials for her digital collages. Traveling extensively, LeMay and her camera capture fragments of
nature — plants, animals and the elements — constantly replenishing her voluminous visual catalog
of the living world.
While her technique is high-tech, LeMay’s hypercollage process is highly instinctual and organic, allowing each piece to dictate its own destiny. From a single, simple starting point — an image, a color, an emotion — she follows a meticulous process. First isolating and extracting elements of her photos, LeMay then weaves these fragments together into intricate compositions of resplendent beauty.
Now approaching new technological horizons to present her work, LeMay nonetheless seeks authenticity of experience over novelty. She speaks effusively of the artists whose own work has inspired, informed and enriched her life. With the moments in time and spaces in the imagination she creates, she strives to do the same for anyone who will venture into her Wonderful Other Worlds.