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  • Lithograph depicting three miners wearing headlamps
    Elizabeth Olds (American, 1896–1991), Miners (WPA proof), 1937. Lithograph on paper. Emmett L. Hudspeth Art Collection of Elizabeth Olds, 2003.8.068. Harry Ransom Center.

Public Works

Art by Elizabeth Olds

February 3 – July 14, 2024

Explore the under-told story of an American artist, who, for most of the twentieth century, worked to bring art into the daily lives of more Americans. Elizabeth Olds (1896–1991), the first woman awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for visual arts, joined the federally funded Public Works of Art Project in 1933 and later the Works Progress Administration until it ended in 1943. As a WPA printmaker and educator, Olds portrayed Depression-era conditions in the United States and was part of a group that promoted the affordability and accessibility of silkscreen printing. She remained an advocate for the democratic and educational possibilities of fine art in the decades to follow, when she reinvented herself as an award-winning author-illustrator. This first critically-engaged solo exhibition of her work considers Olds’s lifelong advocacy—from her depictions of labor conditions in the US mining and meatpacking industries, to her satirical social commentary, to her illustrated books for children.

Engaging, poignant, and sometimes humorous, the over 100 prints, paintings, drawings, and children’s book illustrations on display tell the story of Olds’s commitment to creating impactful and accessible art. The exhibition offers a fresh look at the artist’s practice and her era, but also at the significance of art in everyday life.

National Endowment for the Humanities
Any views, findings, recommendations or conclusions expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Ransom Center appreciates the generosity of our promotional partners: CultureMap, KUT 90.5 & KUTX 98.9, and Society Texas.