8 Wonders of Kansas art

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Art

Elizabeth 'Grandma' Layton

Address: 115 W. 6th, Wellsville, Kansas 66092
Phone: 785.883.2870
Website: www.elizabethlayton.com

"I am tempted to call Layton a genius." New York Magazine

Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton is an 8 Wonders of Kansas Art finalist because of the pencil and crayon contour drawings she started at 68 as therapy for her depression resulting in 1,000 drawings that addressed social issues.

"Grandma" Layton was a woman who touched and enriched many people's lives through her art. What distinguishes ElizabethLayton's drawings from others is their breadth, their freshness, and their expression of hope. Few artists have depicted such far reaching social concerns such as capital punishment, homelessness, hunger, racial prejudice, AIDS, aging and the right to die. Her overriding message of hope can be seen best in her frequent use of rainbows. Each drawing challenges us to walk in the shoes of the less fortunate. Each drawing urges us to work not just for a kinder and gentler nation but for a kinder and gentler self. The most amazing part of it all is that Layton was a largely untrained great-grandmother living in a small town. She took one contour drawing art course at the age of 68 while fighting a 35-year depression. She took the art course for something to do but soon realized the therapeutic value of drawing. Eventually, the art cured her depression and changed the lives of many. Almost all of her drawings were self-portraits done while looking into a mirror.

The information in the above paragraph came from http://www.elizabethlayton.com/which is well managed by Elizabeth Layton's family. This is an excellent place to see her drawings online.

In 2006 the Franklin County Mental Health Center in Ottawa was renamed The Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance. In the late 1950s, Elizabeth had sought counseling there shortly after it opened. She had been diagnosed a manic depressive and had had 13 electric shock treatments in Kansas City. She credited learning to draw her self-portraits with ending her depression within six months after she began drawing.

Layton had not been drawing very long when Don Lambert, 27 and a reporter at the Ottawa Herald, saw her work. He was so moved by what he saw that he became her "agent" of sorts. Don helped the world know about her work. He was able to get her drawings and writings into more than 200 art museums and centers throughout the U.S., including the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C.

Grandma Layton never sold any of the 1,000 drawings she did in almost 15 years of drawing but often donated them to charity auctions to benefit the arts, mental health, women's issues, etc. Thus, she raised about a quarter of a million dollars for those projects.

Conversation with Don Lambert was the source for the previous two paragraphs. To reach Don for more information contact him at dlambert0759@webtv.net.


Sixteen of her drawings and writings are on permanent display in a second floor classroom at the Landon Center on Aging at the KU Med Center in Kansas City, KS. These are from her "nursing home series." People who want to view this exhibit should go to room 220.

Address: 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas. This is the corner of 36th and Rainbow. Parking is available in front of the building.
Phone: 913.588.1203.
Open: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Six of her original drawings are on the walls of the library.
Address: 115 W. 6th, Wellsville, Kansas
Phone: 785.883.2870
E-mail: wclibrary.wcl@test.nekls.org
Open: Monday-Wednesday, Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Saturday 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Three prints and one original are in the lobby.

Address: 2537 Eisenhower Rd., Ottawa, Kansas
Phone: 785.242.5035
Open: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Several of the major art museums in the state have Layton drawings but they are not always on display.


Signs Along The Way

Biography/memoir about Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton, the courageous Wellsville, Kansas native who cured her decades-long depression with contour drawing.

The book can be purchased online through www.elizabethlayton.com and www.globepublishingandgraphics.com


Globe Publishing                                                                                                           

2856 Utah Road, Rantoul, Kansas 66079-9027

Judy Cross: judy@globepublishingandgraphics.com