Helen Wills Post Biography

Helen Wills Post




Sculptor and painter Helen Wills Post was born in Greenville, Texas on December 6, 1915 while her family was en route 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 musician "Tex" Beneke, and their cousin "Chill Wills", who lived with her family in Fort Worth for a brief time. In 1932 Helen entered Texas University at Austin; 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 got a teaching job at the university and pursued painting on the side. In 1939 she met Alan Post, an economics major and himself a painter. In November of 1940 they were married.

The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1941 where Alan took up a job at Occidental College, teaching 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. It was here that Helen first began studying sculpture, at the Corcoran Museum School of Art, under the direction of Heinz Warneke, among others. Helen says 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 Scuplture 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, somtimes humorous and sometimes dark. She credited her extensive travels with influencing her work: throughout their marriage, the pair visited Iran, Portugal, France, Spain, and more. 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 comissioned to do large works for the campuses of the Tiechert Cement headquarters and the Aesclepius 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 their hometown.

Helen died in 2010.