> Elizabeth Layton

Elizabeth Layton, BUTTONS

Elizabeth Layton, BUTTONS

BUTTONS - November 22, 1982 "Her strength is in her principles." - Elizabeth Layton.

At 68, Elizabeth Layton took a contour drawing class that inspired her to draw prolifically for the last 15 years of her life. Layton laid bare her fears and fantasies with colored, wavering lines in frank and unflattering self portraits. Her husband Glenn appeared in many of the drawings, bemused and bewildered. When I first saw her work in the late 80's, I was fascinated by her image and story. But now, it is the portrayals of Glenn and their life together that brings a knowing smile to my face.

Layton, a native of Wellsville, Kansas came from a family of writers and journalists and was herself managing editor of her hometown newspaper, The Wellsville Globe. But she had suffered bouts of depression throughout much of her life and had undergone 12 shock therapy treatments before enrolling in a contour drawing class in 1977. Layton credits her daily regime of drawing her image reflected in a mirror, without looking at the paper, with saving her life. Consequently early drawings were dismissed as art therapy, but later the power and volume of her images earned her exhibits at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, and in more than 200 art museums and centers throughout the U.S. She drew nearly 1200 self-portraits during her drawing career, giving nearly all of them away to friends, museums, and charity auctions. In doings so she raised more than a half million dollars for the arts, women's organizations, civil liberties, mental health, medical ethics issues, the visually impaired and the Wellsville Library. More images and information on her work can be found at

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