Artist and Columbia College Chicago professor Sabina Ott died today at age 62 following a hard-fought four year battle with cancer. A mentor as well as fun-loving friend to many, she is a creative force who is greatly missed.
Ott was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles and received her BFA in painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1979 before receiving an MFA in painting there in 1981. She made her way to the "third coast" in 2005 to serve as Chair of Art and Design at Columbia College Chicago and she called the city home from then on.
Exhibiting since 1985, Ott has participated in over 100 solo and group exhibitions at institutions in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Auckland, New Zealand; Melbourne, Australia; and many cities across the US. Her work is in numerous museum collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Oakland Museum of Art. In recent years she completed a public art commission for the Chicago Transit Authority and a solo exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.
In 2011 she founded Terrain Exhibitions with her husband John Paulett, an author and educator. Terrain is a public exhibition space – Ott's front lawn – in suburban Oak Park dedicated to featuring interventions into the conventional landscape of a front yard by emerging as well as established artists who have been invited to create a site-specific work that challenges the space between public and private, decoration and function, figure and ground. Artworks are intended to be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In 2016, Ott constructed a massive, scalable installation of polystyrene, plywood, industrial spray foam and paint for an exhibition, Who Cares for the Sky?, at the Hyde Park Art Center. A version of the work, Because the mountains were so high, was recreated for a special project at EXPO Chicago that same year. CGN's Franck Mercurio wrote about the work as Ott was putting the finishing touches on it:
"Walking through Sabina Ott’s grotto-like installation, because the mountains were so high, I ran into the artist herself as she applied finishing touches of white paint to the work’s polystyrene and spray foam walls.
'It’s not quite done yet,' she said matter-of-factly.
"Ott had borrowed a security guard’s stool, using it as an improvised ladder while she touched-up the edges of a video monitor embedded into one of the installation’s walls. The Thursday afternoon crowd of art collectors and journalists had just begun to filter through EXPO Chicago’s maze of booths. Some people ventured into Ott’s installation as the artist continued to work.
'I think I hear my gallerist,' said Ott, as Jefferson Godard of Aspect/Ratio appeared from around the corner.
'Sabina, let’s take a walk and see some art!' said Godard.
In 2019, Ott will be featured in a solo exhibition at Aspect/Ratio.
To view the many visual tributes to Ott from around the art community, click here.