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“La - You were very special to the Borden side of the family. We were awful correspondents but you were always in our hearts and thoughts. Your art...Read More »
1 of 8 | Posted by: Carrie Borden - Tampa, FL

“Almost fifty years ago, when I was a somewhat troubled teenager, La literally took me in and let me live for a few months in that garage that became...Read More »
2 of 8 | Posted by: Steven Womack - Nashville, TN

“I will never forget the first time I encountered La Wilson's work at the Akron Art Museum. Inspired.I wish I could articulate the powerful connection...Read More »
3 of 8 | Posted by: Barbara Donnola - Stow, OH

“My prayers and best wishes to you and your family at this difficult time. I'm was saddened to hear of La's passing. Keep your memories close to heart...Read More »
4 of 8 | Posted by: Beth Redman - Wellsburg, NY

“So many good memories of your mom. She was one of my favorite people. Our deepest sympathies.Rick Kimball & Pam Nelson-Kimball ”
5 of 8 | Posted by: A friend

“Jenny, Thinking of you and sending my deepest sympathies. Deb ”
6 of 8 | Posted by: Deb Klumpp - Oro Valley, AZ

“Sending my deepest sympathy.Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.Heather Pritchett Foster ”
7 of 8 | Posted by: Heather Foster - Fountain Hills, AZ

“Offering our deepest sympathies during this time. ”
8 of 8 | Posted by: The Staff of Bissler & Sons Funeral Home - OH


For La Wilson, art was life. "I am freer in art work than in any other area of my life," she wrote in one of her "weather reports." She had many other talents to choose from. At Abbot Academy (now Andover), where students were divided between Gargoyles and Griffins, La was captain of her group, which at each contest sang a pep song ending, "We'll fight with a vim that is dead sure to win for La Purcell." Years later she won the golf club championship at Portage Country Club in Akron, and was steady and deadly on the tennis court. To La, however, sports were casual entertainment; they were not life.
The quiet magnetism that led to her prominence at Abbot Academy had much to do with being an earnest listener and an incisive, guileless, observer of those about her. Friendships came readily to La and enriched and inspired her, yet she was a private person for whom social events were a chore; and they were not life.
La began to discover art, and what art could do for her, in 1954, the year that she bore her last child, Jenny. Motherhood started early for La. While at Smith College in Massachusetts she met an Amherst boy from Akron, David Wilson, and wed him in a military ceremony in April, 1944. David, born in 1945 and Robert, 1948, not always models of decorum, demanded skills that La feared she lacked, although all three children praise her as a parent. With the arrival of Jenny, La began a painting class at the Akron Art Institute (which bought one of her drawings from that period), touching off a passion like none she had known.
Within a few years she migrated to a three-dimensional art form, constructions or assemblages of found objects, such as, in the words of one reviewer, "beads, stones, little plastic toys, nails, dice, machine parts, carpenters' rulers, dominoes, drain stoppers or hair clips." She arranged these in containers, described by the same reviewer as "old bulk goods boxes, sample cases, typesetters trays, sardine cans…." The first impression of works as pretty or primitive or simplistic, only adds to the impact as the dark, disturbing undertones slowly, inevitably, gain ascendance. In her 1994 monograph on La, Elizabeth McClelland wrote: "In La's work we come upon beauty with stinging nettles. Instead of drifting into sweet, half-known realms, we are confronted with visual puns, knotty questions, innuendos, and even, it seems to me, angry accusations."
La wrote that she did not want her art to be "separate …from the rest of life." Her next door neighbor, who wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, described La bringing art into her everyday life in the form of The Pillar, a monumental oak beam used as an underpinning for house moving, which she had embedded in concrete, vertically, on a terrace in front of her house. Her neighbor continues: "La Wilson has topped it with what looks like a crown of white marble, but it is a plastic composition, a factory reject. It glistens by day, winks in lamp light and withstands all weather. Mounting a tall ladder, she affixed it to the beam with an auger and bit, pinioning it first on an airy base that began existence as a wine bottle rack." The art that defined and fulfilled La's life, adorned her home, inside and out.
In 1967 La's three entries in the Annual Juried Exhibition of the Akron Art Institute all received awards. John Davis offered her a show in his Akron Gallery in 1983, starting a business relationship that was soon enriched by a friendship that endured for the rest of La's life. In 1993 she won the sculpture prize in the May show of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Art Prize for Visual Arts. The exhibits, the award, the articles, the praise multiplied as she continued to produce "what has come to be regarded," according to Edward Gomez, critic, journalist and author who reviewed La's work in the New York Times, "as one of the most distinctive bodies of work of any American artist of her time."
La (a name invented by an older brother) was born May 26, 1924 in Corning, NY. She passed away March 30, 2018 at her home in Hudson, Ohio. She is survived by her three children, David's wife Nely Johnson, Jenny's partner Merrilee Nelson; four grandchildren (David's son Mark Johnson and daughters Amy and Jenny L.; Bob's daughter Lucy), and two great grandchildren (Jenny L.'s sons Aaron and Elliot); her sister and brother Tom Purcell and Ellen Carver; sisters-in-law Anne and Josephina Purcell; and several nieces and nephews. Her parents, Justin V. and Alice McAvoy Purcell, and brothers Justin Jr. and John Purcell, died previously. La and David (who passed away in 2007) were divorced in 1980.
Memorial Services will be held 2:00 PM Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the Western Reserve Academy Chapel.