PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston April 2023

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and late husband, artist Henri Gadbois, each receive a chapter in Houston Reflections, along with prominent Texas artists Dorothy Hood, Kermit Oliver, James Surls, Earlie Hudnall Jr., Richard Stout, Forrest Prince, and Dick Wray; underknown talents Annie Moore, Willie Moore, Edward Mills, and Robert Morris; and those integral to the scene, Rice professor/art historian Dr. William Camfield, MFAH registrar Edward Mayo, architect Preston Bolton, and Brazos Bookstores' Karl Kilian. Reynolds' volume, as well as McConnell's CV, offers insights and a key timeline of her artmaking, from grade-school watercolors to her ongoing series of collages, which she works on nearly every day. Born in 1927 in Los Angeles, her family moved to Houston when she was six. She attended Montrose Elementary School, Lamar High School, and Rice University ( t h e n R i c e Institute), enrolling in an architectural program when she was 16. (A bit of a prodigy, McConnell began art classes during her senior year of high school, studying at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with acclaimed Texas portraitist Robert C. Joy.) It was at Rice — where she graduated with a BA in architecture in 1948 and a BS in architecture in 1949 — where the exacting professor Dr. James Chillman played the biggest role in her career. As founding director of the MFAH and concurrently a Rice professor, he is credited by McConnell in Reynolds' book as being "the greatest influence on me … I had art history, architecture history, watercolors, design, and freehand drawing, all from Mr. Chillman." By all accounts, the post-war period in Houston, even before the arrival of NASA, was an exciting time of transformation and creativity. The MFAH was soon to add its first of two additions by Mies van der Rohe; the Contemporary Arts Association (CAA, today's Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) launched its inaugural exhibition on October 31, 1948, at the MFAH, before opening the following year in its own building, a distinctive A-Frame designed by Frank Lloyd Wright disciples MacKie and Kamrath. McConnell entered the scene at a time when women's roles were dynamically expanding. Following graduation from Rice, she continued her studies at the MFAH museum school (now Glassell School of Art), serving as an instructor there for nearly two decades (1950- 1968). She also worked for Houston architect Hamilton Brown (1954-1959). The art world here was organic, supportive, and tight-knit. She and artist Henri Gadbois knew each other as part of that scene, and the pair were married in 1956, and happily wedded for 62 years until Gadbois passed away in 2018. McConnell, her identity and path already established by the time she wed in her late 20s, kept her The artist's desk. Below, A Strange Place, 1976. Right, Orange Sun and Green Land (detail), 1972/1975. (Continued) 88

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