Tonight, Canisius College will give a reception for the artist and longtime area resident Liz Tower as it presents a rare showing of her work. Tower, 85, a private and humble person, has not shown her work on this scale since the 1960s.
But, with the recent urging of friends and family, she at last agreed to a show. The works included, 50 in all, span from the 1940s to the '90s, amounting to a de facto retrospective.
Family friend Albert L. Michaels, a history professor at the University at Buffalo who is a passionate collector of local and regional art, suggested Canisius as a venue.
Vincent Cooke, Canisius' president, and Michael Tunney, director of the school's Studio Art Program and its curator, agreed. The exhibit opened last month. Small groups of the paintings have been in weekly rotation within the school's Peter A. and Mary Lou Vogt Gallery.
In the 1940s Elizabeth Nelson Clark married Peter Tower, scion of the family who founded C.J. Tower and Sons, a hugely successful customs brokerage that became part of FedEx's network. She then came to live in Lewiston as a young wife and mother.
Later in her career, she became friends and formed a loose artistic association with a Buffalo-based group who called themselves the Oakland Artists. In 1982, the group, including Charlotte Albright, Grace McKendry, Nancy Jewett and Virginia Tillou, held a collective exhibition. Tower's paintings have also been shown at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center.
Throughout her life, she has followed her instinct and desire to produce art.
"I wanted to draw when I was a little kid," she said. "I began to paint when I was in high school." Instruction helped; she eventually studied with renowned teacher Sam Russo. And she didn't let the demands of motherhood stop her. "I would paint while my children were in their playpen."
Her subjects range from domestic still lifes and nature-oriented rural scenes to abstractions. This and her carefully chosen colors and thoughtful composition reflect her love of home, of the natural world and of tranquility.
Of the current show, and its effect on her life now, she says: "I miss the paintings. It's nice to look at them and remember when I did them. It's kind of sad -- they are part of my life. That is probably why I didn't try to sell very many."