Nancy W. Webber

May 14, 1937 - March 29, 2024

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Nancy Webber died peacefully on March 29, 2024 at Providence Little Company of Mary in San Pedro, CA after a period of decline due to a heart condition, frailty and serious falls, all resulting from the complexities of aging. Nancy Webber was first and foremost an imaginative, creative and generous person who enjoyed the sensual treasures earth has to offer. A world traveler, one could guess at which countries she had visited through her zany take on fashion, often wearing luscious colors and fabrics humorously paired with contemporary pop doo-dads. Her deep interest in diverse traditional cultures, contrasting the antique and the new was also reflected in her extensive body of personal artwork. This love could also be seen in her far-flung collection of world textiles and art objects and in her delectable culinary creations. Nancy Wildermuth Webber was born on May 14, 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri, daughter of Frederick A. Wildermuth and Myra Leach Wildermuth. She attended Dominican University of California in San Rafael, CA where she received a BA in Liberal Arts with an Art Major and English Minor, 1955-59. She attended Mills College (subsidiary of Northeastern University) in Oakland, CA from 1959-62 where she received a Master of Fine Arts in painting. During this time she also studied abroad at the Pius XII Institute in Florence, Italy where she received an MA in 1961. In 1965 Nancy married painter, Martin Webber whom she met while both were attending Mills College and together they moved to San Pedro, CA where Nancy gave birth to their daughter, Sophia in 1971. Ms. Webber began her position as full-time Professor of Art at Los Angeles Harbor College, CA in 1965 where she taught photography, drawing, painting, design, and film appreciation. After a long and satisfying career as an art educator she retired from full-time teaching in 2013 to devote herself to her own artwork - most especially to the development and completion of a book of her photographs, Life Imitates Art published in 2015. She continued adjunct faculty teaching at Harbor College until 2016. Always an inquisitive traveler, Nancy Webber visited countries around the globe including India, China, Japan, Europe, Mexico, South and Central America, Cuba, Indonesia and Thailand. Additionally she traveled broadly in the US and Canada. From 1980-82 she enjoyed a sabbatical in London while photographing and drawing her surroundings. In 1994 she completed a Fulbright in Brazil and another in India where she photographed expansively while collecting textiles and objects in both locations. The photographs and objects were later exhibited in the Art Gallery at Harbor College. In addition Webber developed a seminar informed by her travels. In 1991 Webber was a co-recipient of the Visual Art Award for the opening of the Metro Blue Line for which they created a large photomural. In 1992 she received a J. Paul Getty Fellowship in Photography and Public Art. In 2008 she received another grant from the Los Angeles cultural affairs department, art in public places for the Harbor Animal Care Center in San Pedro. The piece is titled Peaceable Kingdom. In addition to her considerable contributions in education, Nancy Webber possessed long and singular focus in her personal artwork. What began at age five, as a challenge by a guide at the Saint Louis Art Museum, to find the work of art in the gallery that matched a detail handed to her by the docent, later sparked a lifelong fascination. Years afterwards Webber remembered the childhood game while visiting a museum in Florence, Italy as an art student. At this point she began her more than 25 year long series of observing similarities between art historical portraits and the faces of passers by, photographing both the museum portrait and the face of the stranger (or friend), pairing the photos to accentuate the resemblance. From this extended match making series Webber produced her book, Life Imitates Art that includes over 200 re-embodiments using contemporary people who bear striking likeness to famous portraits. While always subtly humorous she incorporated art history, investigating the theme of the marriage of art and life, underscoring her determination to demystify art. She said, “Too often, we lock art up in intimidating edifices, like museums… I see art on the street all the time, and by showing what I see, I am making the historical work more alive and accessible.” Nancy exhibited her works extensively, both nationally and internationally. Her photographic work is represented in the permanent collection at LACMA. Moreover, many of her works are in private and corporate collections. Additionally the photographs were published in the London Times, Life Magazine, and Camera at Work. This imaginative and active artist also exhibited 3-dimensional installation works and continued to do beautiful Prismacolor and graphite drawings of animals until the end of her life. Nancy Webber will be greatly missed by her family and her many friends. She is survived by her daughter, Sophia, by her small terrier, EB and by Olive, the family mini pig.


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