Ardis Butler James, collector, philanthropist and lifelong lover of fabric, died at age 85 on July 7 in Stamford, Conn. Together with her husband, Robert, Mrs. James founded the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. The couple donated nearly a thousand quilts, then worth more than $6 million, to the museum, which now has a collection of more than 3,500 quilts.
Mrs. James, who grew up in Omaha, Neb., always collected fabric and was a quilter herself. Once, offered a fur coat by her husband, she chose a sewing machine instead. The couple began collecting quilts in the late 1970s and at one point had to build an extension onto their house to hold the growing collection. Mrs. James said she loved quilts for their tactile nature and connection to the people and places of history.
Inventor, artist and imagineer Bob Cassilly, 61, died doing one of the things he loved most: moving dirt. He was found dead Sept. 26 after an apparent accident at the site of his latest project, turning an abandoned St. Louis, Mo., cement plant into a fantasyland of his signature giant animal figures and huge sculptures of ordinary objects like a 79-foot No. 2 pencil and a 4-foot-wide Slinky.
Cassilly was identified over his four-decade career as a sculptor, businessman, restaurateur and museum director, but he refused to be defined by labels. He built a giant giraffe for the Dallas Zoo and hippopotamuses as playthings for children in New York. But the creation he will undoubtedly be most remembered for is the City Museum in St. Louis and featured in the Summer 2010 issue of AmericanStyle, which includes a five-story jungle gym, a walk-through whale, working shoelace machines and skateboard ramps with no skateboards. On the roof are a Ferris wheel and a giant statue of a praying mantis. More than 600,00 people visit every year.
Lecturer, writer, critic and ceramic artist Polly Ullrich died in Woodruff, Wis., on July 6 from injuries suffered in an auto accident. A vibrant supporter and participant in the arts community in Chicago, she was 60.
Ullrich began her career in journalism and increasingly focused on art and the art world. In 1980, she began concentrating on her skills as a ceramic artist. In addition to showing her work in Chicago, Milwaukee and New York, she lectured widely at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. She also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Painter Lucian Freud, grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and a controversial and influential character in his own right, died in London on July 20 after a brief illness. He was 88. He is known for his unadorned, often harsh and mostly nude portraits, many of them of his friends and family. The Economist said of him, “Bare flesh … cushiony, shiny, lumpish pink-white thickly shadowed in gray and blue, was everywhere … His candor was shocking.” But The Guardian quoted Sue Tilley, the model for his famous “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” as saying, “He wasn’t cruel—he painted what he saw.” The 1995 painting sold for $33,641,000 in 2008 at Christie’s in New York.