From left to right: Terrell James, Jesse Lott, Poppi Georges Massey Photos by Ashley MacLean, Houston ISD and Emile Browne

From left to right: Terrell James, Jesse Lott, Poppi Georges Massey
Photos by Ashley MacLean, Houston ISD and Emile Browne

2016 Texas Artist of the Year: Terrell James

2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts: Jesse Lott

2016 Texas Patron of the Year: Poppi Georges Massey


Houston, TX (May 5, 2016) — Art League Houston (ALH) proudly announces the selection of Terrell James as the 2016 Texas Artist of the Year, Jesse Lott as the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts recipient, and Poppi Georges Massey, as the 2016 Texas Patron of the Year. Each year Art League Houston pays tribute to those whose work or patronage has had a significant and positive impact on contemporary visual art in Texas.

“We are thrilled to be honoring legendary Houston artist Jesse Lott with Art League Houston’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts and well known Texas painter Terrell James with the 2016 Texas Artist of the Year Award,” says Michael Peranteau, ALH Executive Director. “Both artists have influenced generations of younger artists and have contributed significantly to the visual arts in Texas throughout their distinguished careers. Both of these artists are much loved by the community where they live and work. We feel honored to have this opportunity to recognize their contributions.”

As the 2016 Texas Artist of the Year, Terrell James will be featured in an exhibition in the Art League Houston Main Gallery from September 30 - November 19, 2016. Art League Houston will also present an exhibition in the Art League Houston Front Gallery featuring a survey of works by 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Jesse Lott. All three awardees will be celebrated at the annual gala, which will be held in their honor at Hotel ZaZa on Friday, October 14. For ticket and table purchase information please contact Jill Nepomnick at Art League Houston, 713 523 9530

Terrell James, Eyeing the Door, 2010, 61 x 78 inches, oil on canvas

Terrell James, Eyeing the Door, 2010, 61 x 78 inches, oil on canvas

 Art League Houston 2016 Texas Artist of the Year: Terrell James


Terrell James is a well-known Houston-based artist whose abstract painting and works on paper are characterized by an expansive vocabulary of gestural mark-making, automatist brushwork and illuminating interactions of form, light, color and density, embodying strong references to the natural world. For the past thirty years, her methodology has been playfully intuitive and intellectually rigorous. The work is grounded in a process of constant rediscovery of what is hers in nature, while integrating with it what she experiences in the more time bound landscape of human artifacts. She has produced an extraordinary body of work which reflects the conviction and knowledge of a skillful painter whose work is an ever-expanding study of the experiential essence of landscape and memory. Additionally the work negotiates the dichotomy between the conscious and the subconscious, while remaining as open to interpretation as possible.

James is a fourth generation Houstonian, and seventh generation Texan. Although Houston-based, she has lived and created work in studios internationally including Soho, Harlem, Long Island, Montauk, NY; Bald Head Island, NC; Bologna, Italy; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Marfa, TX and Berlin, Germany. Since the early 1990’s, she has made trips to west Texas to the Davis Mountains and to the Big Bend region at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert. On these trips, James fills her sketchbook with line studies, not as notations of what is scenic about landscapes, but rather of what the daunting terrain suggests—free flowing impressions of colors, lines and shapes (Edwards, 2014).  

Light and color enliven James’ paintings, which result in a dynamic synthesis of painting and drawing. The act of seeing a landscape, whether it is a desert view or cityscape, is rendered as an accumulation of sensations. There is a generosity in her painting, reflected in her sublime compositions which are open and un-doctrinaire. She is interested in the viewer's participation in her work (Edwards, 2014). “There is the painting, then there is something that happens between the viewer and the painting: a sort of second painting” says James. To gaze at a painting of Terrell James's is to enter into an experience in the making: painting in which the act of painting continues as the eye wanders the finished surface. Each painting is completed by each individual encounter (Stern, 1997).

Walter Hopps, the legendary Curator and Founding Director of The Menil Collection, viewed James as being among the finest gestural abstractionists working in Texas and as one of the best in the country. Hopps stated, “she has mastered a lyrical freedom usually seen in watercolor rather than in oil. Although articulated line is often structurally important, the paintings are primarily built of patches and fluid areas of color.” Hopps, having earlier championed the abstract paintings of Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis in the 1950’s, is eminently qualified to have praised the art of James in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

In addition to her large painted canvases, James began a long-term series of color explorations in 1997 titled Field Studies, which the artist describes as drawing with paint. Over the past decade, she has created more than six hundred oil on vellum works in this series, treating each one like scientific research and cataloging it with a specific number. As opposed to the densely layered surfaces of her canvases, the Field Studies are spontaneous open paintings with floating fields of color. The title Field Studies is a reference the Impressionist technique of color “notes” taken quickly outdoors, as well as a reference to her own process of experimenting with color and form (Froelick, 2010).

Over the past decade, drawing and line have taken an increasingly prominent and deliberate role in her painting practice, allowing the work to explore the dynamics of bodily gesture, along with negotiating a more complex division of space. Inspired by the work of Matisse, Ryder, Cezanne, Bess, Hesse, Bontecou, Mitchell, and Connell, there is a historical narrative told in her lines, which not only reflect James’ own personal narrative but embody how form and meaning come to be transmitted from one generation to the next, and beyond.

In talking about her work, James states:

“I am certain that natural places and living things will always underlie much of what I do. However, as it has evolved, my practice has grown to absorb contexts beyond narrow definitions of “landscape” and “nature.” I now deliberately explore newly available and even unavoidable fields. My work has become engaged with unexpected material. Sometimes it seems that I am simply absorbing and processing everything I encounter. The limitless deluge of the all-enveloping digital world has inspired an expanded palette, to include a vastly larger range of materials, colors and effects.”

Often James’s approach to painting can be site-specific, painted as a mural directly on the wall.  Previous work on steel, sometimes collaboratively with artist Ed Wilson, can become a part of “permanent” architecture, or be presented as a site-specific installation with abutting panels.  These pieces can be divided, standing on their own, or presented as a frieze, commanding an entire room. These have been done on cold rolled steel panels, chemically manipulated in color, rusting in Rorschach-like patterns; as well as fourteen foot long sections of painted paper, oil and acrylic. Presented in a continuum, the pieces are later separated and placed in various locations, spanning less than 35 feet. 

Expanding her repertoire into three dimensions, James also experiments with and creates sculpture. In a statement written in 2003, James talks about her initial explorations into sculpture, in clay, wax, and bronze. “For years I had been wanting to make things, populating the floor, not the wall.  In makingthem, a door opened.  I saw the unnamed images in my drawings, the recurring curves and language glyphs that have populated my work for fifteen years, with a new understanding. When seen from the corner of the studio, the clay forms seem to belong on the ocean floor, or in the recesses of a cave; and, somehow, I began to draw the objects themselves into new paintings. There is a new solidity, a rigor that has come from the sculptural objects. They are really more aptly described as expressions of the hand in a new material.” The newest three dimensional works are in clay, consisting of multiple vessels made from North Carolina and Georgia clay, created at the invitation of master ceramist Hiroshi Sueyoshi, then director of the Pancoe Ceramics Center at the Cameron Museum of Art, in Wilmington, NC. James considers the vessels series to be a collaboration with Sueyoshi.

In 1977, James received a BA in Fine Arts from the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee, with additional study at the Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico (1973), Bellas Artes, Universidad de Mexico, Print Annex, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (1973) and the School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1978-79).

Early in her career she worked for five years sorting and documenting the work of many artists and museums for the Texas Project of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, preparing for microfilming original source material of artists, collectors, and institutions for future scholarship. James has also curated shows at local, national and international venues including the Houston for the Center for Art and Performance, DiverseWorks, Hiram Butler Gallery, GalleryHomeland, along with Wei Hong and Wang Yiqiong, Songzhang Art Space, Beijing. In addition to her practice, James taught at the Glassell School, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for fourteen years and was Chair of the Painting Department. She has served as a guest professor at Rice University, was one of the originating board members at DiverseWorks, and for over a decade served on the board of Gulf Coast: Journal of Art and Literature, the graduate publication of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. 

Over the years, James has had solo exhibits locally, nationally and internationally at venues including Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX (2016, 2013, 2011, 2008, 2007, 2004, 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1991); Cadogan Contemporary, London, UK (2016); Froelick Gallery, Portland, OR (2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2003); Barry Whistler Gallery, Dallas, TX (2016, 2014, 2011, 2009); The Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, NC (2011); Jason McCoy Gallery, New York, NY (2010, 2007, 2004); Fundacion Centro Cultural, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (2003); Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX (1997), and Delgado College Gallery, New Orleans (1992).

James’ work has also been included in national and international group exhibits at venues including Jason McCoy Gallery, New York, NY (2015, 2011, 2010, 2009); Barry Whistler Gallery, Dallas, TX (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013,2012 2011, 2010, 2009, 2001, 1991, 1987); Gallery Homeland, Portland, OR (2012, 2009); Froelick Gallery, Portland, OR (2014, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2006, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1996); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (2015, 2011, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1993); Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX (2011, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994, 1993, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1984, 1983); Pillsbury Peters (2011, 2010, 2009, 2008); Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM (2011, 2009); Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong (2008, 2006); Portland Art Museum, OR (2010, 2003); Museo Moderne Artes, Trujillo, Peru (2007); Marfa Book Company, TX (2002); DiverseWorks, Houston, TX (2002, 1990, 1986, 1984); Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX (2001, 2000, 1998, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1989); Dutch Triodos Bank, Zeiss, The Netherlands (2010-2001); Arlington Museum of Art, Arlington, TX (2001, 1999, 1991); The Old Jail—Art Center, Albany, TX (2000); Hooks Epstein Gallery, Houston, TX (2000); The HK Visual Arts Center, Hong Kong (1999); Mohseni Fine Arts, Limited, Hong Kong (1999); Dutch Triodos Bank, Amsterdam (1999); United States Embassy, Mexico City, D.F. (1999); Shanghai Cultural Center, Shanghai, China (1999); Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, D.F (1999, 1997, 1994, 1991); Galveston Arts Center, Galveston (1997, 1996, 1985); Takara Gallery, Houston, TX (1997); Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston, TX (1996); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1993); Sally Sprout Gallery, Houston, TX (1993); McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX (1989); Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, NY (1988); Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA (1985); Southern California Gallery for Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles (1985); Center for Art & Performance, Houston, TX (1982); Art League Houston, TX (1979), and Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN (1976).

James’ work is featured in several public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY; The Menil Collection, Houston TX; Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Casa Lamm/Televisa Cultural Foundation, Mexico; Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Museum of University of the South, Sewanee, TN; Portland Art Museum—Gilkey Center Graphic Arts, OR; Rice University—Print Collection, Houston, TX; Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA and University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX.

Additionally, James’ work has been written about in publications including Art in America, ARTnews, Art Lies, the Dallas Morning News, Glasstire, The Oregonian, the Houston Chronicle, as well as various books and catalogues. James herself has had pieces published in Gulf Coast, the Houston Chronicle, and Art Lies, along with published artist statements. In Houston, Terrell James is represented by the Hiram Butler Gallery. 

In 2013, James joined the No Boundaries International Art Residency at Bald Head Island, NC, and was one of four artists selected by the Joan Mitchell Foundation's 2013-16 Pilot Call Program in Texas, which facilitates comprehensive documentation of artists' works, careers and legacies. Over the years, James has been commissioned to create paintings for venues including Sands Hotel Macao, China; The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, TX; White Plains, NY; Hilton Americas, Houston; Gensler Architects, Dallas; Avant Garden, Houston; Gensler Architects Houston, and a Royal House in Saudi Arabia. A new installation of works has been installed in its own floor at Solvay America here in Houston. 

Jesse Lott. Photo courtesy of Project Row Houses, 2015

Jesse Lott. Photo courtesy of Project Row Houses, 2015

2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts: Jesse Lott


Jesse Lott is an African-American Houston-based artist who is known for his visionary wire sculpture, papier-mache figures and works on paper made using found materials. Lott is one of Texas’ most respected artists and has exhibited in major museums and universities in Texas and throughout the South. His art has also been shown at the Studio Museum and The Alternative Museum in New York. His primary goal however has not been recognition and financial success, but simply to communicate true realism (Harithas, 1999). For the past forty years, his work has been grounded in an approach to art that he calls “Urban Frontier Art,” which involves the recycling of discarded urban material into art. His work expresses deep feeling and a magical sense of the mysterious other. In the words of the artist, “creativity is that part of awareness that goes beyond knowledge.” His signature sculptural aesthetic reflects a sophisticated grasp of folk art and often depicts a cast of characters including mythological beings, heroes, and ordinary people, as a way to explore the many complex dimensions of being human (Harithas, 1999). Through the lens of urban archeology, his art monumentalizes the everyday, and becomes a vehicle of exchange through which viewers can re-examine their own sense of humanity and spirituality.

When talking about his perspective on the role of an artist, he notes:

“Artists are entrusted with a metaphysical vision. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That means that many words have been entrusted to those to whom God has given the ability to create. When a pebble hits a pool, it starts a wave that covers the whole pool. The pebble is the concept. An artist puts out a concept and the concept changes the consciousness of the viewer, leading to a positive change in the pattern of his activity.”

The idea of using found organic or industrial material to make art occurred to Lott out of necessity. After he left his studies at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1969, he realized that the cost of materials would be prohibitive not only for himself but also for all artists of limited means. At the same time, he realized that in a commodity-driven society a vast store of materials is available to any artist for the taking. His Piñatero Method, based on the Mexican piñata, demonstrates the transformation of waste paper into sculpture (Harithas, 1999).

In addition to his visionary artwork, Lott’s shaman-like presence in the art community of Houston has also had a wide ranging impact, influencing many Texas artists including Rick Lowe, James Surls, Bert Long, Robert Pruitt, Angelbert Metoyer, and Robert Hodge. He is respected for the integrity and mojo power of his art and greatly admired for his many private acts of compassion to the homeless, to poverty-stricken seniors, to the young and to artists throughout the community. His all-ages workshops that he has held over the years in his studio as a community service have inspired many students who would otherwise have no exposure to art.  Lott has also been involved in the genesis and aesthetic orientation of a number of significant community activities including Adept, the first museum devoted to African American culture in Houston, The Midtown Art Center, the Ann Robinson Gallery and the Art Car Museum. Lott’s community oriented philosophy and his Artists in Action program helped spark the creation of the now famous Project Row Houses (Harithas, 1999).

Born in Simmesport, Louisiana, Jesse Lott has been a long time resident of Houston’s 5th Ward for over forty years. As a child, he attended E.O. Smith Elementary School located in Houston’s Fifth Ward, where he began creating and selling his works at the age of fourteen. In his youth, Jesse went to school in Houston with well-known artist Mel Chin, whose father was known to feed Jesse after his football practice, and once offered him the back room at his dry cleaning and laundry service for a studio. After high school he attend the Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA from 1963-1964, followed by California State University in 1965, and the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA from 1967-1969, and returned to Houston in 1974.

Lott’s work has been widely exhibited within Texas, throughout the South, and in New York. He has had solo exhibitions at venues including D. M. Allison Gallery, Houston TX (2013); The Station Museum, Houston TX (2009); G Gallery, Houston, TX (2007); New Braunfels Museum of Art and Music, TX (2004); Artscan Gallery, Houston, TX (1999-2000); Art Car Museum, Houston TX (1999); Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington D.C. (1998); Oakland Museum of Art, California (1997); Project Row Houses, Houston TX (1995); Art Museum of Southeast Texas, TX (1991); Midtown Art Center, Houston, TX (1991); Lawndale Art and Performance Center, Houston, TX (1989); and Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX (1987).

Lott’s work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Williams Tower Gallery, Houston, TX (2008); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston TX (2008); Museo de la Nación, Lima, Peru (2007); Beeville Art Museum, Beeville, TX (2001); Art Car Museum, Houston, TX (1999); The Society of Contemporary Crafts, Pittsburgh, PA (1998-2000); Laguna Gloria Arts Museum, Austin, TX (1992); The Lubbock Fine Arts Center (1991); The Lubbock Black Cultural and Heritage Center, Lubbock, TX (1991); Texas Southern University, Houston, TX (1991); Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC (1990-1992); Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA; Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL; Lawndale Art and Performance Center, Houston, TX (1990, 1982); Staten Island Art Center, New York, NY (1998); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX (1987, 1979); Studio Museum in Harlem, NY (1986); Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, TX (1986); Alternative Museum, New York, NY (1982) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA (1978).

Additionally, Lott’s work is featured in several public spaces around Houston. In 2013, Lott was one of twenty-two artists commissioned to create a sculpture by Metro Rail's Arts in Transit program. The sculpture titled Big Sky was installed on the Southeast Metro line at Scott St. and Elgin St. near the University of Houston campus in the Third Ward, and depicts a figure with its arms in the air constructed out of wires. The same year, he was also invited to participate in the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts (TFAA) citywide “Open-The-Door” public art project, and created a tribute painting to Houston artist Bert Long. In 2010, he was commissioned by Hermann Park to create a public art piece for Lake Plaza where he integrated art objects and materials found around the city into the plaza’s walkways.

Photo by Craig Massey, 2015. Left to right: Annabel Massey, Poppi Georges Massey and Phoebe Massey

Photo by Craig Massey, 2015. Left to right: Annabel Massey, Poppi Georges Massey and Phoebe Massey

2016 Texas Patron of the Year: Poppi Georges Massey


“Poppi Georges Massey has been supporting and collecting Texas visual artists and supporting Texas visual arts organizations for many years,” says Sarah Bray, President, ALH Board of Directors. “Not a lot of people know this because she has done it quietly without a lot of fanfare and publicity. She has supported large institutions like the the Contemporary Arts Museum and The Menil Collection and she has been involved in and contributed to smaller organizations like the Houston Center for Photography and Art League Houston. She has also been a major force behind Selven Jarmon's 360 Degrees Vanishing, a monumental, soon to be installed public art piece. She is a perfect candidate for our Patron of the Year Award."

Poppi Georges Massey is a well-loved and respected Houston-based arts advocate and collector who has lived on and off in Houston throughout her life. This award has been a long standing tradition of Art League Houston’s effort to spotlight individuals whose efforts and patronage have helped advance the work of Texas artists, and Massey’s commitment to contemporary art in Houston, and Texas is none other than exceptional.

Having always loved art, Poppi began collecting in the early 1980’s. “I am inspired by work that makes my heart skip a beat, and also forming a relationship with the artists,” she says. “When I get to know an artist, I tend to see even more layers of meaning in their work.  I collect art that I’m in love with and that continues to bring me joy every time I see it. It’s more about building a quality of life than building an art collection.” 

Not only does Poppi support local, emerging and established artists, her collection also includes artwork by some of the most renowned contemporary artists working today. Her collection is housed in her unique contemporary home designed by architects Scott Strasser and Erick Ragni. Poppi has served on the board of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston Center for Photography, Bo’s Place, and the Children’s Museum. She currently serves on the committee for 360 Degrees Vanishing and the board of the Menninger Clinic Foundation.

In 1983, Art League Houston created the Texas Artist of the Year award as a dynamic annual project documenting Texas art history. Art League Houston was the first organization in the state to develop such an award. To date, thirty-one artists have been honored. Past recipients include Amy Blakemore, Havel Ruck Project, Rachel Hecker, Aaron Parazette, Mary McCleary, Joseph Havel, Melissa Miller, Al Souza, The Art Guys, Luis Jiménez, Bert L. Long, Jr., Jesús Moroles, James Surls, and Dr. John Biggers, among others.

In 1989, Art League Houston expanded the award to include patrons with its Texas Patron of the Year award for extraordinary individuals whose efforts have helped advance the work of Texas artists. Past patron honorees include Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston (2010-16), Stephanie Smither, Leigh and Reggie Smith, Judy and Scott Nyquist, Victoria and Marshal Lightman, Leslie and Brad Bucher, Anne and James Harithas, Gus Kopriva, and Clint Willour, among others. 

In 2013, Art League Houston celebrated its 65th Anniversary as an arts organization and the 30th Anniversary of its Texas Artist of the Year award. In recognition of this occasion, Art League Houston established the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts for artists whose career has spanned more than forty years, and who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of visual art in Texas and beyond. Past patron honorees include Forrest Prince and Kermit Oliver.


Amy Blakemore, 2015

Havel Ruck Project, 2014

Rachel Hecker, 2013

Aaron Parazette, 2012

Mary McCleary, 2011

Joseph Havel, 2010

Keith Carter, 2009

Melissa Miller, 2008

Dixie Friend Gay, 2007

Al Souza, 2006

The Art Guys, 2005

Richard Stout, 2004

Virgil Grotfeldt, 2003

Sharon Kopriva, 2001

Dick Wray, 2000

Linda Ridgway, 1999

Luis Jimenez, 1998

Gael Stack, 1997

Lucas Johnson, 1996

Robert Wilson, 1995

Karin Broker, 1994

George Krause, 1993

James Surls, 1991

Bert L. Long, Jr., 1990

Jesús Moroles, 1989

Dr. John Biggers, 1988

Charles Pebworth, 1987

Charles Schorre, 1986

Charles Umlauf, 1985

Dorothy Hood, 1984

E.M. (Buck) Schweitz, 1983


Mayor Annise Parker (2010-16), 2015

Stephanie Smither, 2014

Leigh & Reggie Smith, 2013

Judy & Scott Nyquist, 2012

Victoria & Marshall Lightman, 2011

Leslie and Brad Bucher, Patrons 2010

Karol Kreymer and Robert Card, M.D., 2009

Ann and James Harithas, 2008

Gus Kopriva, 2007  

Clint Willour, 2006

Lester Marks, 2002

Sue Rowan Pittman, Patron 1989



Forrest Prince, 2015

Kermit Oliver, 2013