Jean Kubota Cassill

Artist Bio

Exhibition List


Artist Resume

Born Newport, Wash. 1926
University of Wisconsin, Madison
B.A. 1949; M.A. 1950
State University of Iowa, Iowa City
M.F.A. 1954
Tiffany Fellowship, Printmaking
Employment: curatorial administrative assistant, Asian Art, Cleveland Museum of Art,
1965 – 1991

Artist Biography

By Sarah Sakurazawa

This is what my mother, Jean Kuniko Kubota Cassill, remembers:

When she was 3 years old, her family moved to Metaline Falls, a small town about 100 miles north of Spokane, Wash., where she lived until she left for college in 1945. 

She says the Kubotas were the only Japanese family in this tiny mining and logging town in the northeastern corner of the state, about 15 miles from Canada. 

She recalls that art was just a word she read in books so becoming an artist was almost an accident. She signed up for beginning drawing while she was studying at the University of Wisconsin. Under the tutelage of Alfred Sessler, the world of art and its history opened up. Since Sessler also taught printmaking, she enrolled in those classes, then decided to concentrate on printmaking. 

In 1950 Jean went to Iowa City and completed an M.F.A. in printmaking with Mauricio Lasansky. She wrote her thesis on the Mangwa books of Hokusai, using an original set owned by Lasansky. In studying Hokusai, she became fascinated with all aspects of Japanese art and culture. 
At the same time, she says she was drawn to the rich soil and huge trees that thrived in Iowa and felt compelled to portray her surroundings in the deep blacks of etching ink. She began doing landscapes, as she did throughout her life. 

Woven work
It’s no coincidence that my mother was also a weaver. She wove art into every aspect of our lives, from the food she cooked (often served in bowls by friend and legendary ceramicist  and Princeton University professor Toshiko Takaezu) to the clothes she wore (she handmade all her clothes – including coats — and most of my dresses when I was little). She had a huge loom that took up half the master bedroom. A few times she wove fabric and then sewed suit coats or vests for Carroll. She knitted every single mitten, scarf and sweater my brother and I wore growing up. 

Jean started making Christmas cookies in grad school when she gave her printmaking mentor Mauricio Lasansky a card box packed with tiny hand-shaped cookies arranged in an exquisite mosaic. She cut them into tiny precise squares and rectangles by eye, without a ruler, just as her mother had cut perfectly shaped ramen noodles with a kitchen knife. 

Jean has made those Christmas cookies ever since. She’s 95 now and still bakes for a week solid in early December to prepare at least 10 kinds, making sure to include family favorites. You can sample her recipes and watch a video of her tips on how to make her Christmas cookies here

Access to art making
In 1951, Jean married H. Carroll Cassill, also a graduate in printmaking at Iowa and Lasansky’s assistant instructor. In 1957, the couple moved to Cleveland when Carroll was named head of printmaking at the Cleveland Institute of Art. 

After my brother and I were born in 1955 and 1958, she was busy with us, but notes she had access to etching facilities because Carroll taught at the art institute. Once both of us were in school, she worked in the Asian art department at the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

Later, she and Dad built a home studio so she was able to continue making prints “on a rather scattered basis.” She says she feels fortunate to have married a printmaker so she was never without access to printmaking facilities. 

Stirred into the mix
On top of working full time at a world-renowned museum and making award-winning artwork, Jean was also a phenomenal cook. She made homemade noodles before pasta was chic. Every week she baked our bread for toast and sandwiches from scratch; every birthday cake was lovingly homemade and decorated. Her piecrust is legendary. She crocheted rag rugs and re-wove the rattan on a rocking chair. 

Every single glass jar that came in the house was recycled and stashed on the basement shelves to be used to preserve jams and jellies in the summer. Every summer she put up quarts of pickles, applesauce, pears, peaches, tomatoes and pie cherries, as well as strawberry, blueberry and five-fruit jam plus raspberry and currant jelly and an insanely good green-tomato chutney. Not to mention she was an award-winning silversmith, creating and exhibiting modernistic jewelry pieces. My mother makes Martha Stewart look like a slacker. 

After our father died in 2008, Jean moved to Washington state to be near her daughter. She continued to make prints into her 90s, depicting a landscape of majestic mountains and giant pines

Artist Statement

Jean Kubota Cassill 

My approach to printmaking is to observe and reflect on my surroundings — which usually means a landscape — and try to translate that onto a copper plate. 

I start with a sketch, which might be a composite of sketches I made outdoors in my favorite park or, occasionally, I will make a sketch of a specific site. I transfer the sketch to a plate covered with a hard ground and then draw with a sharp tool to outline the drawing, which will then be exposed to the acid. Once the first bite is done, I take a proof and from then on I respond to what I find on the plate.    

I see the plate and the acid as participants in the creative process because control of the acid is never certain. Things happen in the acid that can be a surprise and this can be used or scraped away. The scraping leaves a texture or marks that can lead to your next move or change the direction of the picture. The opportunity for discovery in making prints is what compels me to return to the studio and keep exploring.


Exhibitions & Awards

Wisconsin Salon, University of Wisconsin, prize
Milwaukee Printmakers, Milwaukee Art Institute, prize 1947
Library of Congress, purchase, 1949
Northwest Printmakers, Seattle Art Museum
Denver Art Museum Annual
Bradley University Print Annual, purchase prize 1954
Springfield Art Museum Annual
Print Club of Philadelphia
Metropolitan Museum Watercolor, Print & Drawing Exhibition
Pennsylvania Academy Biennial
San Francisco Art Museum Annual, purchase prize 1954; 1957
Printmakers of Southern California
Museum of Modern Art “Young American Printmakers”
Brooklyn Museum Print Annual
Mid-America Annual, Kansas City Art Museum
“Graphic Art USA,” University of Illinois
Wichita Art Association Print Annual
University of Wisconsin Invitational Graphics Exhibition
Bay Printmakers, Oakland Art Museum
Boston Printmakers, prize 1958
Walker Art Center Biennial
Washington (D.C.) Society of Printmakers
May Show, Cleveland Museum of Art, H.M. 1958; prize 1960; purchase 1965; SP.M. 1967
Silvermine Guild National Print Annual
Society of American Graphic Artists
Dayton Printmakers, Dayton Art Museum
Cleveland Jaycee Art Exhibition, first prize 1960; 1961
Olivet College Print Exhibition
Otis Art Institute Invitational, Los Angeles
Western Michigan University Print Annual
SAGA Overseas Traveling Exhibition sponsored by the State Department

Iowa Print Group exhibition touring Latin America, State Department, 1959
Young American Printmakers tour of Europe sponsored by Museum of Modern Art
Ohio Women Artists, Butler Institute, Youngstown
Iowa Print Show 1972-73: Grand Valley State College, Hope College, Saginaw Valley College, Interlochen Arts Academy, Western Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior College, Henry Ford Community College
The Printmaker’s Work, NOVA, Cleveland 1978
Jay County Arts Council, Japanese-American Art Portland, Indiana 1991
Sakura in Buckeye County, Lima Art Association 1990-92: Schumacher Gallery, Columbus; Emery Center, Cincinnati; Mansfield Art Center; Ohio University, Athens; Marysville High School (sponsored by Honda)
Northeast Ohio Print Annual, William Busta Gallery, 1993, 1994, 1996
An American Regionalism in the 21st Century, William Busta Gallery The Styles of the Times: The 1950s, Des Moines Art Center, 1998
Invitational Print Exhibition, Art at the Powerhouse, Cleveland, 1999
From the Heights, Cleveland Heights Arts Community Gallery, 2003 – 2006, 2012
Prints from Alumni of the University of Iowa, Boliou Gallery, Carleton College, 2010
The Rise of the Print: Mid-century Masters of American Printmaking, The Drawing Studio, Tucson, 2010
The Art of Prints, Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, 2012
William Busta Gallery, recent etchings, 2013
Carleton College, printmaking department, 2014

Joint Exhibitions

with H. Carroll Cassill

University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1960
Brooks Memorial Art Museum, Memphis, 1960

The Cleveland Play House Gallery, 1979
FAVA Art Gallery, Oberlin, 1983
Blackfish Gallery, Portland, Ore., 1983
The Art Gallery of Kendal at Oberlin, 2001

In collection of
State University of Iowa, Iowa City
The Cleveland Museum of Art
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
Cleveland Art Association
Library of Congress
San Francisco Museum of Art
Des Moines Art Center
University of California Berkeley, loan collection
Numerous private collections