Obituary: Penelope “Penny” Claire Ross

Mother, award-winning artist, Pomona College grad

Penelope “Penny” Claire Ross, age 59, died the evening of October 7 at her home in Houston, Texas after a nearly two year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1961 to Ralph Ross, a philosophy professor, and Alicia Johnson, a computer programmer, she spent her youth in Claremont, where she graduated from Claremont High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from Pomona College in 1983.

While enrolled at Pomona College she met her husband Arthur Warga, who at the time was working at Claremont Graduate University. They later moved to Los Angeles and then New York City, where she pursued careers at Dell Publishing and in telecommunications at Columbia University. After a number of years in New York, she and Mr. Warga resettled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they had three sons.

In 1997 Ms. Ross and her family relocated to Houston, Texas, where she raised her children and developed a passion for art. She cultivated her talent through classes at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Glassell School of Art and was later selected to participate as an artist in its BLOCK program.

While initially focused on painting, she gradually moved into mixed media and three-dimensional pieces, crafting a series of sculptures consisting of wire and dyed, torn pantyhose as a commentary on mid-life. She described her work as examining “the extreme limits of materials … pushing textiles past the point of destruction by use of tension and laceration to reveal the beauty of what remains.”

Her award-winning works have been displayed in various galleries and exhibitions throughout Houston and the state of Texas, including Artspace 111, Lawndale Art Center, and the Assistance League of Houston Celebration of Texas Art, as well as in private collections across the United States.

She was a remarkable, resilient woman who balanced her art career with her life as a mother to three children and caretaker for her husband, who died in 2011 after living for eight years with brain cancer.

Ms. Ross is survived by her three sons, Aaron, David and Sam; as well as her brother Allen Ross, his wife Norma and their children, Janae, Jenel, Ryan and Jade.

In lieu of sending flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston or to the MFAH Glassell School of Art. “These institutions had a very meaningful impact on Penny’s development as an artist, and Glassell continues to serve the Houston community as an incubator for both emerging and established artists,” her family shared.

To make a donation in her memory, please contact Julia Smith in the MFAH Development Office at or (713) 353-1587.


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