National Museum of Women in the Arts
Clyde Connell
September 19 1901 - May 02 1998
Photograph of Clyde Connell with her sculpture Habitat, ca. 1980, by DW Gallery. 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm). Clyde Connell papers, 1952-1981. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA.
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
(kl-eye-d) KAHN-uhl
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Painting, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Mixed Media Artist , Painter, Sculptor, Watercolorist, Wood Engraver
Artist's Biography:
Clyde Connell’s paintings and sculptures represent her intense relationship with the Louisiana swamps and bayou and its people. For over four decades, Connell created works that reflect the natural rhythms and sounds of nature, the changing social climate of the Deep South, the celebration of freedom and life, the necessity of open dialogue, and the importance of spiritual values. Connell’s mixed-media pieces embody themes from religion, justice, and civil rights to family, communication, and the life cycle. Her images of stick figures, primitive houses, goddesses, and other mythical subjects have made her one of the most important artists from Louisiana.

Born and raised on a cotton plantation in the Deep South, Connell draws her inspiration from childhood memories of spirituals sung on the plantation and the grieving sounds of racial struggle. Considered a political liberal in her conservative hometown, Connell was a free-thinking, independent woman who studied painting privately while volunteering at the Presbyterian church for black children. Upon her visit to New York galleries in the mid-'50s, Connell was awed by the booming Abstract Expressionist style, and switched from representational figure studies to abstract forms. Influenced primarily by Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Frederick Kiesler, Connell began adding strips of torn paper, layering glue and earth to her paintings until they adopted a three-dimensional form. By 1963, Connell had made a complete transition to abstract sculpture.

In 1959, Connell and her husband T.D. Connell, moved to a solitary home on the edge of Lake Bistineau, where the idyllic surroundings became both the inspiration and the actual materials for her work. She created several series of sculptures entitled Posts, Totems, Habitats, and Guardians among others. These primordial sculptures, meditative in spirit and made from a combination of rusted mechanical tidbits, bolts, springs, cedar, cypress, rattan, iron, glue, paper sacking, newsprint, and paper pulp, appear as altars or memorials to nature and life. It was not until 1978, when Connell was almost eighty years old, that the artist began to receive a national audience, outside of her Northern Louisiana base, when Murray Smither, co-owner of Dallas’ Delahunty Gallery took an interest in her work. She is now represented in many prestigious collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Louisiana State University, Shreveport, LA, USA (1950-1955) George Doke Studio, Shreveport, LA, USA (1925-1927) Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA (1919-1920) Breneau College, Gainesville, GA, USA (1918-1919)
Related Visual Artists:
influenced by Eva Hesse influenced by Judy Chicago influenced by Adolf Gottlieb influenced by Clyfford Still influenced by Jackson Pollock influenced by Willem de Kooning influenced by Franz Kline influenced by Frederick Kiesler
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Award in the Visual Arts 5, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1985) Lifetime Achievement Award, Women's Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1984) Grant, Gottlieb Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1982)
Earliest exhibition:
Louisiana Major Works, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA, USA (1980)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Artist retrospective(s):
Clyde Connell: Daughter of the Bayou, Tyler Art Museum, Tyler, TX, USA (2001) Clyde Connell, Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans, LA, USA (1998)
Related places
Shreveport (died at)
Dialogue Gate, 1981
Dialogue Gate