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November Feature Exhibition

A Retrospective of Harriet Souder’s Life and Work

I was born in a log cabin in Bruce, Wisconsin.  In his younger years, my father was a lumberjack in the North woods.   When I was about nine years old, we studied famous artists in school.  My classmates would ask me to draw the faces on their drawings.  When I was eleven, my father sold the farm in Wisconsin and he and I moved to “the home place”, in Iowa.  It was my grandmother’s farm, which was now run by my bachelor uncle, Uncle Harvey.  My Uncle Harvey’s housekeeper, Nellie, helped raise me.  When I was in school, and didn’t want the teacher to see I was drawing, I would hold up my big, heavy geography book to hide my paper while I looked out the window and drew.  I loved to draw but life on the farm was hard.  I didn’t have much time for drawing or play.   I did chores and herded cattle.  

I attended a one-room schoolhouse for the lower grades.  When I attended high school, I had to move into town, so I lived with different families and worked for my room and board.  When I graduated from high school, I attended summer school at Iowa Teacher’s College in Cedar Falls one summer and received a certificate to teach.  I returned to my home and taught at the one-room school I had attended only four years previously.  I taught there two years, saving my money for college and attending college during the summer breaks.  After two years I returned to college in Cedar Falls as a full time student.  Although I had to work my way through college I still managed to earn my B.A. degree in Art Education four years after graduating from high school.

My first teaching job was teaching art at the junior high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  I married my one and only love, Walter, in 1946 after he returned from World War II.  He decided to delay returning to college and accepted a teaching position in Fort Dodge.  Between the ages of 24 and 28 I had five girls.  They kept me very busy but I continued to teach, raise my family, and make art.

I joined the Fort Dodge Art Guild, a group of artists who would get together once a month to critique each other’s work.  One of the games I used to play with my girls when they were little, was to award them pennies for recognizing famous paintings.  All of them were artistic; three of them are art teachers.  

We moved to Cedar Rapids where I taught art and science at the elementary level.  Later I taught art at Franklin Junior High until I retired.  Our girls sent us on a trip overseas in 1963. I loved traveling and painting.  So I took my canvases and paints with me and painted on the spot.  Walter would assemble my canvases and help me get set up.  Walter would entertain the people who would stop and watch me paint because I couldn’t talk to them and paint at the same time.

We used to vacation and paint in Sedona, Arizona, in the late 60’s, long before it became an artist colony.  I loved to paint the red rock canyons around Sedona.

The subject of most of my paintings is landscapes.  You will see landscapes from the places I have lived and the places I have visited.  I have a series of paintings of Holets’ farm.  Our friend, the Holets, lived on a farm outside of Cedar Rapids, near Fairfax, Iowa.  On one occasion, I was sitting in the field painting the farm, when one of the neighbors called the Holets and warned them that someone was in the marijuana  patch.  I had no idea!