While her work hung in the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) Loft Gallery in a show that has been unseen by the public, the abstract painter Elizabeth “Betty” Craft died Sunday, May 10, 2020 of natural causes. Ms. Craft, known in the art world as Elizabeth Harms, died at her home in Jeffersonville, NY surrounded by her cats and artwork. At her side was fellow artist and loyal friend Kevin Gref. Ms. Craft was 95.
The unseen exhibition, entitled “Betty and Me,” featured numerous large canvases by Elizabeth and an array of sculptures by Mr. Gref. It never opened to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although Ms. Craft stopped painting several years ago, she had become a mentor to Gref, offering critique usually prefaced with: “I hate it when people do this, but....”
Elizabeth Harms received her MFA and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She exhibited her paintings and pastels for more than 60 years in various solo and group exhibitions. Solo exhibitions include New York’s Paul McCarron Gallery; Condeso/Lawler Gallery; 55 Mercer; Jersey City Museum; Jupiter Gallery; Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute; Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA; and DVAA in Narrowsburg, NY.
Of her work, Harms said, “All of my work is truly, purely abstract, or non-objective, or non-representational. Many times I have been stimulated by the colors or shapes in nature. The environment is always a constant source of inspiration and can be something as simple as the light and shapes of snow on the hills in winter.”
Born Elizabeth Harms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Beva Sanderson Harms and Frederick George Harms, she and her husband, the artist and art professor, Douglas D. Craft, moved to Jeffersonville in their later years so they would have room to live and create art in a home with a barn big enough to turn into a studio. Harms and Craft met while students at the Art Institute of Chicago and were married for 64 years before Mr. Craft’s death in 2015.
Harms, recognized as a woman pioneering in abstract art in a field dominated by men, earned the note of critics for her approach.
In his 1979 article expressing disdain for a trend toward showy and shallow art, the New York Times writer David L. Shirey wrote, “Sensationalism in art dies a quick death. Thus, when we encounter an artist like Elizabeth Harms, we are somewhat stunned and baffled. Does she belong to the contemporary art world? How will she survive among the sensationalists?
“Her work does not scream like a siren or flash like a klieg light. On the contrary... it is very quiet, taciturn art that borders on reticence. In certain ways, it is Oriental in nature, meditative and intelligent.
“Miss Harms’s art will survive in the long run,” he wrote.
Donations in memory of Ms. Craft may be made to Hospice of Orange and Sullivan in honor of their excellent care and compassion (www.hospiceoforange.com) or to the arts organization of one’s choosing.
Ms. Craft is survived by a sister, Ellen Merrick, of Warwick; a niece, Sharon Crockett, a nephew, Daniel Jones, and a number of great-nieces and great-nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her husband, Douglas, and sisters Dorothy Jones and Winifred Maciejewski. A memorial service is planned for a later date.