I don’t know about you, but researching printmakers as I have over the last year and a half, I sometimes come across people that have been little-known about, or maybe only locally to their own circle. It is a shame that one finds good work and realizes their estates may controlled by galleries or relatives that don’t know what to do with their relative’s work after they’ve passed. I don’t mean to suggest either situation is the case with Leona Pierce’s work. In fact, she did enjoy some recognition for her own art during her lifetime, and in collaboration with her artist-husband, Antonio Frasconi, who I recently reviewed here at That’s Inked Up. Still, I am discouraged when, I see good work, and there is little written about the artist. In this case, Pierce being a woman, and I am not getting on a band wagon about under-recognized women arists, BUT there has been a pre-ponderance for women artists to be given the slight. I hope this article will give her a little more recognition and that people will seek out her work.
Leona Pierce (1921-2002), was a painter, printmaker, textile artist, and teacher. She was born in Santa Barbara, California and later she moved to New York City. Her goal was to study at the Art Students’ League, which she did, and later she pursued her studies at the New School. Pierce studied with famed artists Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Stuart Davis. Some of her work reflects their sense of line and color.
While studying at the Art Student’s League, Pierce met artist Antonio Frasconi. They married in 1951 and began a family. Soon after the birth of their second son, the couple settled in Norwalk, Connecticut where they remained until their deaths in 2002 (Leona) and 2013 (Frasconi), respectively. The Frasconis liked the quiet of Connecticut and found it a good place to raise their two sons, Pablo and Miguel. Pierce and Frasconi each continued to pursue their own art and teaching careers, amassing excellent credentials and publishing and illustrating children’s books.
Pierce became established as an artist and developed an exhibition history with her woodcuts and hand printed textiles. She is probably best known for her bright and colorful woodcuts of children at play. The sense of child-like wonder and funky angles in her prints resemble the work of New York artist/printmaker Irving Amen. Her colors were lively and carefully balanced. I enjoy her lines and playfulness of the children as they play marbles or hide and seek.
Impressively, Pierce’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library, Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Side note* Pierce’s and Frasconi’s sons have both continued in the arts; Pablo is an award-winning independent filmmaker who resides in Santa Barabara, CA, and Miguel is an experimental electronic musician. Surely their parents instilled in them an artistic spark from which they’ve continued to explore their own creativity.