November 10, 2013 through March 30, 2014
Exhibit Gallery is open to the public Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Included with standard admission or membership. Claremont Museum of Art Members receive free Garden admission with proof of membership during the exhibit.
One of Claremont's most prolific sculptors, Betty Davenport Ford is well known for her unique style and honest craftsmanship. Working in clay and bronze for over sixty years, she simplifies form to abstract the natural essence of the wild creatures she depicts.
Ford has shared her love of nature and strong sense of design through a lifetime of teaching. She created numerous public works of art for churches, banks, and other institutions throughout Southern California, including the large tiger at Chaffey High School in Ontario.
This exhibit produced by the Claremont Museum of Art is generously cosponsored by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts.
For the Love of Nature
I am concerned with learning all I can about living things, how they are made, how they stand or sit, how they walk or fly or swim, what they fear, and by what they are feared in return. In short... the total picture. -- Betty Ford
From her early childhood, Betty Davenport Ford discovered her love for sculpting by creating small animal figurines out of warm crayons and materials she found in her backyard. While still in high school, she took classes at Scripps College from Austrian refugee ceramic sculptor Suzie Singer, who taught her the art of hollow building, a technique using coils to build pieces with hollow centers. As a Scripps student, she studied extensively with Albert Stewart and worked for him for two years after graduating in 1946.
During Ford's early years she discovered the beauty of the animal form, a fascination that thematically recurred in her sculptures throughout her professional career. It was through the study of the form and anatomy of family pets that Ford gained the ability to capture not only the likeness of her animal subjects but their spiritual essence as well.
Betty is an exceptionally talented artist with a keen understanding of "all creatures great and small." -- Hal Nelson, Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Nelson adds that "Betty Davenport Ford's animal studies in clay are truly extraordinary. Sometimes fearsome, sometimes tender, and oftentimes amusing, they are unfailingly well crafted. While she abstracts her forms slightly to create thoughtfully organized sculptural compositions, she always manages to capture the essence of her subject and to bring each creature vividly to life."
Crafting a Career in Sculpture
Ford's award winning work has been widely exhibited and she has taught at Scripps College, Pasadena City College, and throughout California for the Visual Arts Program. Her popular sculpture classes were held at the Padua Hills Theatre from 1971 to 1994.
For Betty Davenport Ford, sculpting is about solving the problems that are inherent in her field and the material she works with. The hollow building method allowed Ford to build large, life-size pieces in clay. Timing is crucial for ceramics, which Ford understands all too well. She describes ceramics as a science that requires trial and error and meticulous record keeping.
The most important thing to a ceramic sculptor is to prevent the piece from exploding in the kiln, and Ford successfully innovated techniques to ensure that her work survived the firing process.
During the 1950's, Ford formed a professional relationship with prominent artist Millard Sheets, who commissioned her to create many of her most important public works. Ford and Sheets trusted each other and were able to work together to combine each other's visions, creating a legacy that still can be seen to this day.
Under Sheets' tutelage, Ford created some of her best work, such as Wild Goat that won first prize at the Los Angeles County Fair's competition in 1956 and Sable Antelope for California Federal Savings. Of all her pieces, Ford is most proud of the colossal 10-foot long Siberian Tiger that resides at her Alma Mater, Chaffey High School in Ontario, California.