Joanna Higgs Ross
(b.1934) born and lives in Nashville
Mountains and Clouds, 2014
oil on canvas, frame built and painted by artist, 38 x 46 inches
Gift of Jane Sims Camp
In 1957, shortly after graduating as one of the first females from the University of Tennessee (UT) with a B.F.A. a few UT art faculty members encouraged Higgs Ross to enter paintings into regional juried shows. This involved building art crates and sending them to Railway Express, who would pick the crates up and send them back once a show ended, or sooner if it was rejected. In 1960 the UT art faculty, C. Kermit Ewing, Walter Hollis Stevens, and Richard Clarke along with Carl Sublett (at that time a commercial artist but later joined the faculty) and Robert Birdwell, who painted murals for TVA, invited her to join them in forming a group called Knoxville Artists. Later, sculptor Phillip Nichols, joined the faculty and the group became The Knoxville Seven. This progressive group (1955-1965) produced some of the first abstract expressionist art in Tennessee during that time.
Higgs Ross was employed as staff artist for the Medical Division of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, Oak Ridge from 1956-57 and was a designer for The University of Tennessee Graphic Arts Service 1958-1960. Higgs Ross went on to the University of Illinois, Urbana to complete her M.F.A. in 1961. Fresh from college, she began her teaching career as the only art professor at Lambuth College in Jackson, Tennessee where she taught until 1983. After teaching, she and her husband, Douglas A. Ross, moved to Nashville. Since then she has continued to paint. Her prolific portfolio extends nearly 60 years and can be found in art collections throughout Tennessee and Illinois including: the Tennessee State Museum, Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, University of Illinois, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Knoxville Museum of Art, Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film, First American Bank, Third National Bank, Bass, Berry & Sims, and the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce.