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Spirituality vital to Jean Goodwin Ames creative process

“Will there be stars in my crown when the sun goes down?” was the question posed by artist and teacher Jean Goodwin Ames in a speech at the Ebell Club in Los Angeles in 1958, where she received the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year in Art award. She recalls this biblical phrase being used by her mother, explaining in her speech that crowns are standard equipment for souls in heaven, but only those who have done something particularly wonderful in life are rewarded stars to place in their crown by God.

Although frequently inspired by spiritual motifs, Ames did not align with any particular religion. Spirituality, however, was vital to her life philosophy and creative process. To Ames, true happiness came with the rewards of a creative life; in other words, and in order for one to be granted stars in their crown, they must “learn to use their vital powers in a creative life, in which they give in unison of their mind, body, and spirit — a trinity wherein rewards come back to life.”

Above all, Ames was passionate about the extramundane connection between all living creatures, stating, “My orbit seems full of angels and lovely sprites, all mingling with enchanted birds and beasts. Although I see these images within their abstract design, they are more of a motivation and possibly more important to me than the abstract elements in which I interpret them.” In these works, Ames’ interest in woman’s place in the flora and fauna surrounding her is evident, invoking in the viewer a sense of ethereality and deep reverence for the natural world.

Jean Goodwin Ames was born on November 6, 1903, to a family of citrus farmers in Santa Ana. After high school, she spent two years at Pomona College before enrolling in a three-year program at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ames went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in education from UCLA and an MFA from USC. In 1940, she began teaching art at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University, where she would become Professor Emerita of Design and Art Education and chairman of the MFA and MA programs. Ames was a beloved member of the Claremont community during her time at the Claremont Colleges, and influenced countless artists, including Karl Benjamin, Paul Darrow, and many others.

An exhibition of works by Mrs. Ames curated by current Scripps junior and gallery intern Lucy Bloomtran, will run at Mount San Antonio Gardens from April 6 to May 25. Information about appointments for the public to view the show will be forthcoming.

The exhibition showcases a variety of Ames’ work, including beautiful paintings and enamel work. These artworks reside in the permanent collection of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College. For more information about the exhibition, email lbloomst5088@scrippscollege.edu.

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