Cora Kelley Ward, Untitled, 1950. Watercolor on paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Estate of Cora Kelley Ward.
Cora Kelley Ward (Student 1949 and 1950 Summer Session) (b.1920-d.1989)
Cora Kelley Ward was a painter and photographer from Louisiana who participated in the New York art movement from the 1960s through the 1980s. She attended Black Mountain College for the Summer Sessions of 1949, where she studied with Josef Albers and Emerson Woeffler, and 1950, where she studied under painter Theodoros Stamos and art critic Clement Greenberg, forming a close friendship with him that would last throughout her life. She was one of the few people from Black Mountain College to also attend the Institute of Design (New Bauhaus) in Chicago, where she earned a degree in Visual Design in 1953.
In 1955 she moved to New York and became an active part of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Though a prolific painter during this time, she was known among the community for meticulously taking photographs of other artists’ studios, gallery openings, and anything that had to do with the New York art scene.
According to Greenberg, she hit her stride in the 1980s; prior to this point her work was often considered ‘derivative’ of the color field painters like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland. Though her work was never critically acclaimed, she was loved and respected in the art community and worked with continued passion for painting. After she died in 1989 much of her work was donated to the Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.