Helen Wills Post Biography

Helen Wills Post





Sculptor and painter Helen Wills Post was born to Lettie and Joseph Boone Wills in Greenville, Texas on 6 December 1915. Her mother gave birth to her while the family was traveling to Oklahoma, where her father owned oil wells. The family of seven included four girls and a boy, each of them gifted performers and artists. Among Helen and her siblings' friends were Mary Martin, Ginger Rogers and jazz saxophonist and singer Tex Beneke. Their cousin Chill Wills was an actor and singer who lived briefly with her family in Fort Worth. In 1932, Helen entered Texas University at Austin but, unfortunately, not long after her enrollment her father's oil business collapsed and in 1934 she withdrew. She traveled northeast to Princeton, New Jersey where she was hired to teach at the university and was able to pursue painting in her free time. In 1939 she met Alan Post, an economics major and painter, and in November of 1940 they were married.

The Posts moved to Los Angeles in 1941 where Alan was hired by Occidental College to teach economics. Because of the impending war he quit his job to apply for an officer candidate position but was rejected for his poor eyesight. They moved to Sacramento, California in 1942, but soon left for Washington, D.C., where Alan was hired to teach at American University. While in D.C., Helen began studying sculpture at the Corcoran Museum School of Art under the direction of Heinz Warneke. Helen said of the experience, “Alan remarked that I drew like a sculptor and did I not study it? ...I had always wanted to sculpt, but the University of Texas put me in a teaching curriculum, refusing to recognize sculpture as a discipline for women. Alan’s query caused me to recognize my true desire... I abandoned painting, using that experience only for drawing ideas for sculpture.” (from Helen and Alan Post: A Painting a Sculpture Retrospective, Dubnick, 2002)

Alan’s job took them to Salt Lake City in 1944, and then back to California in 1947 for the position of Chief Economist/Administrative Analyst for the Legislative Auditor’s office. Helen began further studies in sculpture at Sacramento State College and the University of California at Davis. She would eventually work in stone, wood, cement, plaster, clay, wax, and bronze. Common themes within her work were abstracted human and animal forms, sometimes humorous and sometimes dark. She credited her extensive international travels with influencing her work. To execute her larger works, she often worked with the Artworks Foundry in Berkeley and the Art Foundry in Sacramento. In the 1970s, she was commissioned to do large works for the campuses of the Teichert Cement headquarters and the Asclepius Medical Building, both in Sacramento.

Helen continued to work in sculpture and exhibited extensively throughout California, including at the Crocker Museum, both solo and with Alan until 2002. Additionally, both of the Posts became well known for their civic work in Sacramento. Helen was a founder of the Family Services Agency, and was active in the Creative Artists League and the Kingsley Art Club. The Alan and Helen Post Park, featuring bronze busts by Helen, was erected in honor of both artists in the McKinley neighborhood of Sacramento.

Helen Wills Post died in Sacramento, California on 28 August 2010.