Helen Corning (1921 – 2011) was a prolific painter of exquisitely beautiful abstractions – large canvases revealing a spare palate of earth colors – capturing an essence of layered simplicity that she honed over her six plus decades of painting.
Helen long believed that “less is more” in art, a philosophy shared with decades of students who passed through her classes. She was greatly influenced by her extensive travels around the world, including a year she spent in Japan. The Washington Post described her paintings as “Haikus envisioned,” a term she adopted to describe her work. In July 2011, she wrote:
“As I grow older, and wiser (?) I become more questioning about all things, including art. The enjoyment of doing art is very much still there. The enjoyment of the results, however change with time and place. To me, “less is more.” I find overload everywhere. I strive for elements that ”suggest” but do not “INSIST.” I want the person looking at these paintings to discover at leisure what it is all about. Maybe between us, we can share these ideas. I still call my paintings, “Haiku” – being a very concise short poem that has a lot to say.”
Corning’s work has been recognized with solo exhibitions and juried shows, among others at the Touchstone and Picasso Galleries in Washington DC, Athenaeum Gallery in Alexandria VA, The Glenview Mansion in Rockville MD, The Corcoran Art Gallery and Pan American Building in Washington DC, as well as numerous Bicentennial Exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution.
Her work is in the private collections of the Weitzman Institute, Israel; in numerous collections in the Washington DC area including Sohio Collection, Bell Atlantic, Federal Bank of Baltimore, the Howard Hughes Medical Center, and numerous private collections. She was an artist fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony, and Banff Centre for the Arts.
Corning was an art graduate of Ohio University. She received a master’s degree in painting from the University of Washington in Seattle, along the way studying with renowned artists including Alexy Brodovitch at the New School in New York City and Gaston Petit in Tokyo, Japan. A teacher herself, Corning led one of the most popular abstract painting classes at the Yellow Barn in Glen Echo’s art colony in Maryland from 1990 to 2011. She maintained studios around the world including Tokyo Japan, and Ein Hod, Israel. Until December 2010, she also maintained a studio in Kensington, Maryland.
Corning was a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. who settled in the Washington DC area around 1950 until she moved to Maine in 2010. Along with being a wife and mother of two artist daughters she was also a world traveler possessed of an adventuresome spirit and mind. She traveled the world with her husband, Gerald Corning, a world renowned Aerospace Engineer, and Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland (deceased 1981).
Helen Corning ‘s life and paintings were all about creativity, imagination, and making the world an artful place to be. To the end, she proudly touted her arts activism and sported her pin: ART SAVES LIVES.