Muses

Ball, Kathryn Uhl
Born in Sacramento, Kathryn Laverne Uhl was the daughter of the California metalsmith George Adam Uhl (1876 - 1973).  She graduated from Mills College in 1932, majoring in art, and subsequently taught there.  In 1939 she married the ceramist F. Carlton Ball (1911 – 1992) who was also a teacher at Mills. In 1945 they had a son Fred Uhl Ball (1945 – 1985) who, with instruction from his mother in the basics of enameling, became one of the leading figures in the late 20th-century enamels field.  When Fred was in the hospital preceding his untimely death in 1985, Kathryn Ball helped fabricate and install her son’s final enamel mural in Sacramento.

An adept printmaker specializing in lithography, she worked in the 1930s on commissions for the California Chapter of the Works Progress Administration, producing urban studies and scenes of everyday life.  She also illustrated a number of books, the most prominent of which was Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughter, first published in 1945. Wong described her friend and colleague’s illustrations for the book in the following terms: “The drawings are authentic and accurate in detail and represent many hours of careful research on the part of Kathryn Uhl Ball, who cooperated fully to make this book a careful record of an American Chinese girl’s first twenty-four years.”

Art critic Victoria Dalkey described Ball’s work: “She was noted for the sensitivity of her intimately scaled figure drawings and portraits, which were distinguished by remarkable delicacy of touch.  Her quiet often fragile works had a lyricism, vivacity, and wit that made them outstanding.”

Kathryn Uhl Ball was frequently included in the Crocker Art Museum’s biennial Crocker-Kingsley exhibitions.  Her work is in the Crocker’s collection as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Art.