Art and style have been important parts of Hotel Ella, which dates back to 1898. The Hotel’s archived Wooten family heirlooms chronicle the influential history of the mansion and the family. Throughout the property is a diverse collection of sculptural and contemporary art, including major works by the celebrated sculptor Charles Umlauf. This collection celebrates his contribution to the University and Austin. Additional pieces from Austin artists populate the courtyard wing. The installation will run through 2014.
After holding the position of district surgeon during the civil war, Thomas Wooten moved to Austin in 1876 to establish his own practice. A prestigious figure, Thomas was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents by Governor Oran M. Roberts in 1881. One of eight original members, Thomas moved his way up to the president of the board that was charged with running the entire University. Thomas was one of the most influential men in the founding of the University. His political weight swayed legislation into naming Austin as the location of the school over Waco and Thorpe Springs, Texas. (Wooten Bar)
Goodall H. Wooten was the son of Thomas Wooten and, like his father, was a successful doctor. After graduating from The University of Texas, Goodall remained an active alumna and later went on to become the president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce from 1926 – 1937. Goodall, along with his wife, were prominent leaders in their Austin community. He was passionate about The University, where he founded the Texas Memorial Museum. A nationally recognized gun collector, Goodall left his 3,000 piece gun collection to the museum. Among Goodall’s collection were many blunderbusses - a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel – kind of an early form of a sawed-off shotgun. (Circa 1810 Moroccan blunderbuss in bar, Goodall pictured with collection in Elevator lobby)
The original Wooten home was not quite as grand as it is today; it was originally characteristic Greek revival with a central entry way and identical adjoining rooms on each side. The second story contained a sitting room, four bedrooms, a bathroom, and Dr. Wooten’s gunroom. In 1910, Goodall asked Ella if she would rather take a trip around the world, or have renovations made to the house. She smartly chose both. Before the renovations began, Dr. Wooten contacted the Vanderbilt’s for the stone carver that made the beautiful columns at their estate in North Carolina. Searching for the artisan he learned that the carver was being jailed for public drunkenness in Austin, TX, of all places. Dr. Wooten paroled him and he moved into the basement of the home for two years while he built the two story sandstone columns that are on the East and South sides of the house. In addition to the columns, the west end of the house was also expanded, creating a new library on the ground floor and an additional bedroom and bathroom upstairs. Once the expansion and exterior additions to the home were completed, Mrs. Wooten believed it was time to do some interior revisions as well. So, in 1925, she contacted interior designer Neiman Marcus to redecorate the home at a cost of $10,000, (roughly one million dollars today).
Ella Newsome Wooten, originally from McKinney, TX, was one of the first women to attend the University of Texas. Ella was known for her extensive gardens and became Austin’s foremost azalea-grower as her garden grew to include 1,800 bushes becoming one of the floral showcases of the city. Ella was politically active and became the first woman to serve on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors. A long time leader in Red Cross activities, Ella received a medal for her contributions to the Red Cross during WWI and clocked over 8,000 volunteer hours in WWII. In 1935, Ella and Goodall donated 125 acres of land on Bull Creek to form Camp Tom Wooten for the Boy Scouts of America. (Goodall and Ella’s portraits greet guests at the front desk. Their original passports and his travel records on a turn of the century gun-buying trip to Europe are in the jewelry case in the lobby)
· 1878 Dr. Thomas Wooten purchases the one acre home site for $2,500
· 1900 Goodall Wooten and Ella Newsome Wooten complete construction
· 1925 Mansion renovations and expansion completed
· 1975 The House is placed on the National Register of Historic Places
· 2013 The property is renovated and opens as Hotel Ella
Charles Umlauf was a prolific, internationally known 20th century sculptor. He was the sixth born of eight children and spent his formative years in Chicago. His interest in carving and forming figures developed at an early age. Once old enough, he began studying at the Art Institute of Chicago where he met his wife, Angeline. He was recognized as perhaps the best anatomical drawer in its’ history. Two of his works were exhibited at the World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1933. In 1939, the University of Texas began an initiative to create a world-class Arts Program. Umlauf had been heralded as a major artist for his refugee piece “War Mother,” which spurred UT to recruit him as one of the “Big 10” founding professors of the ambitious Art Department. Umlauf moved to Austin in 1940 to begin teaching. He became known as a tough, but caring teacher at UT with a crushing handshake and a wide smile. He became synonymous with Art and UT where he taught drawing and sculpting for 40 years. During his early years, a dilapidated wooden barracks housed a 3,000 degree kiln where students fired their artworks. Legend has it that Umlauf would climb into the attic in his undershirt with a fire extinguisher in hand while the works fired to keep the barracks from catching fire. Umlauf published two books on his work through UT, Charles Umlauf, Sculptor (1967) and The Sculpture and Drawing of Charles Umlauf (1980).
On the south lawn of the property are three favorites from the family’s private collection. As an ensemble they reflect the artists’ playfulness and sense of activity at their family home.
The inspiration for Skater (1970, Bronze with Green Patina) is the 1968 US Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming. Umlauf, like the rest of the country, was captivated by her performance and made the sculpture without a seating of any type.
Lotus (1960, Stoneware), Rooster (1964, Bronze) The Umlauf home was an animal sanctuary. All types of beasts roamed freely around the Umlauf grounds including peacocks, foxes, raccoons, and even a pet pig Charles brought home instead of the dog they were expecting. Umlauf made these piece for his children after a family trip to the San Antonio Zoo.
The interior courtyard has been dedicated to the Umlauf family collection. A serene and sophisticated place, it’s a modern riff on Rodin’s, one of Charles’ chief inspirations. Walk through it, find a comfy spot, sit and enjoy. Put all the pieces together in the adjacent wine bar.
Head II (1961, Bronze with Green Patina) Charles had six children with his wife Angeline: Karl, Lynn, Madeline, Louis, Arthur, and Tom. This piece is modeled after one of his two daughters Lynn and Madeline. As identical twins, Charles smartly and coyly refused to specify which daughter it was, telling each it was of her.
Boy with Goat (1958, Bronze) Boy with Goat was inspired by Umlauf’s youngest son, Tom who loved to carry the family cat around his neck similarly to the boy in the sculpture. Tom’s classic form and cherubic demeanor lend the piece an old world air; though its resemblance to young Tom is undeniable.
Encounter (1981, Bronze) Abstract.
Seated Bather with Bikini (1965, Bronze) During the 1960s Umlauf produced a number of significant sculptures of women. This classically formed piece perhaps reflects the sensibilities of the time with which Umlauf was confronted, where the wisp of a swimsuit serves to mollify the conservative benefactors and climate of Texas at the time, while the power of the underlying form is still very present.
Disrobing (1983, Bronze) In this piece, Charles displays the raw exuberance of his model and muse in full flight. The source sketch sat 19 years before he chose to sculpt it, where he then first placed it at his home down the hill behind his house. The head was intentionally oversized to project upward and be seen. Charles reputation as a world-class anatomicist is clearly in display here as the form is exacting and perfectly matching the known form. Maybe most tellingly is the courage and conviction of the artist to sculpt as he wants to reflect a man with 40 years of a career behind him. That, and the fact that in the 20 years between Seated Bather and Disrobing, America had forced itself through the sexual revolution. Women had thrown away their bras and the sex symbols of the 1970s were now not just sexy, but smart, empowered and capable of asserting themselves and their sexuality.
Touch Someone (Arthur Umlauf, Bronze) The only one of Charles’ six children that pursued an art career, Arthur’s style clearly evokes his father’s. Tellingly, his hand reaching up to touch his father’s reflects a sense of loss and desire to reconnect, as well as the rough and strong sense of connection of a normal sized sons’ hand to that of a giant’s.
Wander into the small ante-room of the mansion that looks out upon the courtyard. On the wall is the source sketch drawn in 1964 that attests to Umlauf’s intentions for his art at that time, which only became more forcefully asserted with Disrobing in 1983. Here, in a classic period photo, you see the massive hands of the sculpture as he poses with one of his most beloved models and primary muse. It is that massive hand that is so poignantly captured in Arthur’s sculpture. The strong hands of Charles Umlauf shaped the city and state’s view of art in a not so gentle way. Charles was certainly ahead of his time and out of step with the conservative mores of the times. His body of work is the most influential of any Austin artist. Settle in with a bottle of wine and pull a book off the shelf and really feel his presence.
The University of Texas and the Wooten family have a long and illustrious history – including the actual formation of the campus and it’s long tradition of Texas Longhorn Football. You will find pictures of the first football team, the founding professors of each department, and other seminal moments in UTs history spread throughout the property.
The first University of Texas football team was established in 1893 and managed by Albert Lefevra, the secretary- treasurer of the UT Athletic Association. The first season, the team played a total of four games: two in the fall and two in the spring. Their first game was against the Dallas Foot Ball Club that was the best in the state at the time. Known for being a thuggish bunch and cheating freely (breaking arms and poking out eyes), The Dallas Foot Ball club were hard pressed for willing opponents. The game, held at the Dallas Fair Grounds, attracted a then-record 1,200 onlookers. The University of Texas came out on top 18-16 and established their superior football reputation. They went on to win every game that season.
In the early 1920s, George ‘Hook’ McCullough, Goodall Wooten’s son-in-law, played football for The University of Texas and was one of the first All American players. His nickname, ‘Hook,’ evolved from his large, nimble hands and the way that he seemed to hold the ball like a hook. The University recognized his contribution with the George ‘Hook’ McCullough Football Outstanding Player Award, which is the formal name for the MVP award. Some notable recipients include: Tommy Nobis, Earl Campbell, Jerry Gray, Eric Metcalf, Ricky Williams, Vince Young, and Colt McCoy.
McCullough did not only excel on the field, but on the court as well. In his off-season, Hook played basketball for the University in order to stay in shape. Being 6’ 2” and 185 lbs, Hook embodied pure athletic talent. He dominated on defense and is regarded as one of the finest football players in early UT history. Hook is remembered for his rebounding, defense, and ball handling finesse. The Austin Statesman dubbed Hook “one of the greatest exponents of the indoor game who has ever worn the orange and white.”
The original football gear consisted of no shoulder pads, hip pads, or any padding at all. The players nailed leather cleats on their shoes, and grew long hair to cushion their skulls.
Cornerstone. The University of Texas originated in 1839, when the Congress of the Republic of Texas mandated that there be a site set aside for a university. In March of 1881, enabling legislation was signed to create the University of Texas. An election for location of the university was ordered, and the legislature vested governance of the university in the Board of Regents that included Thomas Wooten. On November 17th, 1882, the cornerstone of the west wing of the first Main Building was laid in a ceremony at which the main address was delivered by the president of the Board of Regents.
Texas State University. The original 40 acres set aside by the legislature for construction was known as “College Hill.” Expansion beyond the original 40 acres was hampered by constitutional restriction until the discovery of oil on the university-owned grounds in 1923. This new wealth was put towards general endowment fund. The original old Victorian-Gothic Main Building served as the central point of the 40 acres and served almost all purposes. Despite extreme opposition from faculty and students, the original building was razed in 1934 and the modern day tower was built in its place.
UT Tower Under Construction. Designed by the French born architect, Paul Cret, the University Tower is 307 ft tall with 28 floors. Upon its construction in 1934, it was originally planned as a library space with a dumbwaiter system for the higher floors. It was used in this fashion for several years; the book collection was so expansive that the librarians were known to wear roller skates. The building now mainly contains administrative offices, though it does house a three-floor life sciences library.
Founding UT Professors. Initially, the University of Texas staff consisted of eight professors, four assistants, and the proctor. Classes began Sept 15th, 1883 with 221 students (163 men, 58 women).
The University of Texas Varsity Band was formed in 1900 by chemistry professor Eugene P. Schoch. Women were not allowed to join the band until 1956. Known as the “Showband of the Southwest,” the group has become one of the most reputable college bands in the country.
Goddess of Liberty. The statue that sits atop the Capital Building in Austin is something of a mystery. The name, origin, and even the materials she’s made of have been debated for years. A beauty from afar, the goddess looks almost deformed when observed up close. She has strong features that were intentionally exaggerated to make her appear “normal” when viewed from below. Over the years, many men have claimed that the goddess depicts a female ancestor of theirs, but, due to her misshapen form, no woman has made such claim.
The Texas State Capital Building was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed from 1882-1888. The structure, reaching 308 ft high, was the fourth building to be funded by the state government of Texas. It was built to contain the chambers of the Texas Legislature and the office of the governor.
Obsessive Compulsive - Valet Entry, Front Lawn
Obsessive Compulsive is a forceful and stunning work with layers of embedded social commentary on status, culture, materiality, and the iconic nature of craft. Formed as a gigantic oversized “CHANEL” woman’s handbag, “Obsessive Compulsive” instantly forces viewers to grapple with modernity and abstraction while also working to resolve the juxtaposition of texture and weight in space. Having the appearance of a light, soft handbag, the work is in reality the opposite; weighing nearly 2000 lbs and made from one of the hardest materials known to man. The juxtaposition further delivers the artist, Barbara Segal’s desire to challenge our social obsession with the transitory nature of fashion. The piece is a manifestation of permanence, a tribute to the old-world carving of icons in marble; far from the transitional and even seasonal nature of the fashion world.
Propellers - Dining Room
“Propellers” is a mounted abstract sculpture consisting of four independent columns, all uniform and inversely symmetrical in pairs. The interlocking columns visually dissolve the rigidity of the inherent mathematical structure, developing a deceiving impression of an ‘untamed’ or ‘uncontrolled’ surface. The sculpture serves to resolve and unite art with science and technology. Each piece rises over four feet and twists over 280 degrees around from the base to the top. The twisting motion is further accentuated by the “ribboning” of the twist, based upon the three-toothed propeller gear profile extending from the base of the helix. This work was designed through a competition within Overland Partner/Architects. The competition winner, Garrett Jones, believes the process through which the sculpture was brought to life to be “transformative and paradigm shifting.”
Born and raised in Austin, TX, photographer Matt Lankes grew up watching his dad take pictures for the Austin American Statesman. After attending St. Edward’s University, Lankes began taking photographs professionally. He specializes in portraits of people in their environments because he likes to “try to make a portrait that shows who a person really is.” Lankes has worked for HBO, Fox Searchlight, Texas Monthly, Time Inc., and Warner Brothers. His work resides permanently in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian as well as in the Witliff Collections at Texas State University.
Billy Joe Shaver. Texas writer and musician, Billy Joe Shaver, may not have become a household name, but he familiarized the term “outlaw country.” With an unorthodox upbringing, Shaver is known for his rough and tough ways. He was raised by his grandmother in Corsicana, TX, and worked on his uncle’s cotton fields. Shaver’s talents are even more impressive because he lost part of his fingers during a job at a sawmill. The man is so hard-hitting that he survived a heart attack he had on stage during a show at Gruene Hall. Shaver wrote songs for artsists such as Kris Kristofferson, the Allman Brothers, Elvis, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash. The Washington Post stated, “when the country outlaws were collecting their holy writings, Billy Joe Shaver was carrying out the Exodus.”
Shaver’s portrait was taken in Waco, TX in 2010 right after he found out he was not going to jail for shooting a man in the face at a bar. Supposedly, Shaver asked, “where do you want it?” before he shot the man. Lankes describes Shaver as a very kind man and a true Texan.
Pinetop Perkins. A great Mississippi bluesman, Perkins is regarded as one of the best and most enduring blues pianists of all time. Perkins initially began playing the guitar along with the piano, but dropped the guitar when he sustained an arm injury. Although he did a lot of solo work, Perkins most notably played piano for the Muddy Waters Band. In 1980, Perkins and other members of the Muddy’s crew formed the Legendary Blues Band that toured extensively.
This portrait of Pinetop Perkins was taken while at his home in Austin, TX in November 2008 when he was in his 94. Before he died at age 97, he was the oldest living recipient of a Grammy.
Molly Ivins, Sarah Weddington, Liz Carpenter
Austinite Molly Ivins was a renowned columnist, author, liberal, political commentator, and humorist. After attending the Columbia University Graduate school of Journalism, she began her career at the Minneapolis Tribune and later The New York Times. She returned to Texas papers in the 1970s to become co-editor and political reporter for the Texas Observer where she covered the Texas Legislature.
Sarah Weddington is an all American prodigy. After graduating two years early from high school, and graduating magna cum laude from McMurry University, she attended the University of Texas Law School. At the time, she was 1 of 5 females entering her class of 120 students. Unable to find a job after graduation, she joined a group of students that were researching ways to challenge various anti-abortion statutes. This led her into representing “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v. Wade case before the US Supreme Court that overturned Texas’ abortion law at the ripe age of 26. It was her very first trial.
Liz Carpenter can be described in many ways: writer, feminist, reporter, media advisor, speechwriter, political humorist, and PR expert to name a few. Carpenter lived in Austin since the young age of 7 when her parents moved there from Salado, TX. After attending the University of Texas journalism school, working for The Daily Texan, and becoming the first woman Vice President of the university, Carpenter went on to have a blossoming political career. She was at the forefront of the women’s movement and became the first woman to be the executive assistant to the Vice President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. Carpenter later went on to be the press secretary to the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, and also a mentor to Texas’ first female governor, Ann Richards. Not only did she become known as the funniest woman in politics, she became the symbol of women’s progression to political power.
Among their accomplishments, these women are all cancer survivors.
Kris Kristofferson. One of the most versatile of American talents, Kris Kristofferson holds the title of Golden gloves boxer, Rhodes scholar, college football layer, acclaimed actor, military officer, helicopter pilot, and Grammy winner. Another outlaw country star and Country music hall of famer, Kristofferson was a contemporary with artists Willie Neslon, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings.
Bob Schneider is an Austin, Texas-based musician and artist. Schneider learned guitar and piano at an early age and made his first live appearances performing at his parents’ parties. After dropping out of the University of Texas at El Paso where he studied art, Schneider began touring with his band. He became a member/head of many bands that did not gain much national recognition, but built solid reputations on the road. He launched his solo career in 1999. Schneider’s musical approach as a solo artist has proven to be very eclectic: a little bit singer/songwriter, a whole lot of bits and pieces of funk, country, rock, and folk. Despite his popularity and fame, Schneider remains committed to playing smaller venues and thrives on the energy of the stage. He is still known best as a true Austin musician.
Australian artist Kate Breakey attained international recognition for her large-scale richly hand-colored photographs. Her signature mixed medium style requires painting as well as photography skills. In school, Breakey studied painting, print-making, and later photography. She moved to Austin, TX in 1988 and completed her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Texas, where she later taught photography. Breakey naturally began combining paint, pencils, and inks with photographs making them more interesting and sensual while changing the photo’s integrity and credibility. She describes her technique as “blurring boundaries so that the image is caught between being a painting and a photograph.” Breakey’s work is held in many public collections, including The Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the Austin Museaum of Art, the Musem of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography, who have collected over 150 works by Breakey since 1999. In 2004, she received the ‘Photographer of the Year’ Award from the Houston Center for Photography. Breakey’s three works appear in the dining room and lobby of the hotel.
Austin, TX jewelry shop Bell and Bird provides personal, historical, and unique pieces all from the 18th and 19th Centuries. This specialized company is named after two Victorian explorers, Gertrude Bell and Isabella Bird. Partners Rhianna and Cyrus Shennum are forever traveling in exploration of the lovely and uncommon. The perfect combination, Rhianna has a background in selling antiques at the wholesale and boutique level, while Cyrus is a GIA certified jeweler who has the skills and knowledge to assure the quality of their pieces. Nearly 200 years tick by during the Georgian and Victorian eras, the time when the treasures they seek were created. It was a period of great change and progress, a time that predates electricity, photography and the even the United States. The jewels on display in the lobby are hand curated by Bell + Bird to imagine the sensibilities and styles of Ella in her heyday. Also in the jewel box are Ella and Goodall’s original passport.
Maxine Graham Price grew up in a military family and moved with them to many postings in the southern and eastern climes of the United States as well as Germany.
Price received her BFA degree in Art from The University of Texas at Austin and over her career has pursued various aspects of art. Many of her portraits hang on the campuses of The University of Texas at Austin, St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio and Texas A&M University at College Station.
Price has become known for her rich color and her thick and juicy pigment applied great gusto and expression. She works in a series, limiting herself only to her imagination, the medium of oils and to the use of the palette knife, which she has learned to use with great expertise. Subjects cover a large range of interests and ideas. The original “San Miguel Series” is ongoing as is her “Landscape Series” which incorporates scenes of the southwestern United States. One recent series called the “What Remains Series” is based on old walls and dilapidated buildings found in small southwestern towns. A current series is called the “New Phase Series” and incorporates bright, clear, and unglazed color with slightly skewed compositional shapes and a happy playful attitude.
Maxine Price’s works appear in the first floor common areas of the courtyard wing.
Rhythm, pattern and process is a fitting description for the paintings that Brad Ellis makes. His paintings are a combination of mixed media works that involve encaustic, oil, acrylic and collage elements. Texture, surface treatments and color are very important aspects of his work, in order for each painting to have a very profound and compelling presence.
The way Ellis approaches making an abstract picture is to start with a concept such as “language” or “dance” and then find ways to incorporate those concepts into works of art. He typically starts each painting by building up layers of collage materials that consist of found or created paper and fabric elements. These collage pieces are then cut and mounted on to the canvas or board in a specific way to form the underlying pattern for the painting. This helps lay the foundation for the initial imagery and paves the way for the following applications of other mediums.
The next phase of making the painting is the part Ellis refers to as rhythm. This starts the mark making portion of the piece as he begins incorporating expressionistic brush work to create different lines, forms and shapes that get worked and reworked in order to strike the right balance and to create a sense of “surface tension” that is very important to him.
The process portion of the work starts happening when Ellis begins applying layers of the wax-based medium of encaustic. This involves fusing, burning, melting and re-applying this ancient medium in order to achieve surface treatments that can be extremely thick and physical or as smooth as glass.
His ultimate goal is to create a compelling work of abstract art that engages the viewer, is endlessly absorbing and fosters a meaningful dialogue. Brad’s works hang in the stairwell and upstairs of the courtyard wing.
The iconic photographer and environmentalist, Ansel Adams, is known for his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West. Adams’ star rose rapidly in the 1930s, propelled in part by his ability and in part by his effusive energy and activity. Although profoundly a man of the West, Adams spent a considerable amount of time in New York during the 1930s and 1940s when photography as an art was coming into the public consciousness. Serving as principal photographic consultant to Polaroid and Hasslblad, Ansel produced ten volumes of technical manuals on photography, which are arguably the most influential books ever written on the subject.
Adams’ technical mastery was legendary. With an intense focus on theory and the practice of medium, he creatively transcended any other photographer before or after him. Adams’ developed the complex “zone system” that involves controlling and relating exposure and development allowing photographers to produce a match to their creatively visualized image. His main influencer was New York’s own Alfred Stieglitz. In 1936, Stieglitz gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place. In 1933, the Delphic Gallery gave Adams his first New York show. His first series of technical articles was published in Camera Craft in 1934, and his first widely distributed book, Making a Photograph, appeared in 1935.