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100-year-old Corpus Christi based artist highlighted for creative artwork

Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-20 13:06:48-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — 100-year-old Sue Rees has made a name for herself as a celebrated artist here in Corpus Christi.

She was born Mary Sue Reese in 1922 in Cameron County, and raised in Dallas. Since she was in the fifth grade, Sue has excelled in art.

"I don't know how I got into art, it just hit me one day and I loved it," Rees said. "I'm glad I got into it."

Rees said she sharply remembers watching a video about sculptures as part of her grade-level classes, but she did not sculpt anything herself until she studied at Southern Methodist University. From there, she instantly added sculptor to her list of skills.

After college, Sue married Warren Rees, who was also a fellow sculptor before they both moved to Corpus Christi in 1961.

Sue became an award-winning sculptor and painter and extensively involved herself in the downtown Corpus Christi arts and museum scene in the 1960s.

The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History commissioned Sue to create life-sized wax sculptures depicting a Karankawa Indian family. She carefully studied the Karankawa history and depicted a scene of family life in her artwork.

The sculptures were later put in storage because their imagery depicted them peacefully. However, the climate during that time favored the idea of Indigenous people in conflict with settlers.

"This was not good. I didn't like it at all. It's like they wanted crouching Indians," Rees said. "They just did anything to make them look bad. I didn't want to do that."

Decades later, the Texas Maritime Museum retrieved these treasured sculptures from storage, had them restored and displayed once again for Rees to see for herself.

"Oh boy, I loved it," she said. "Justin Parkoff, the museum's director, really pulled out all the stops and made it something to remember. It's just great to see my work again and see people actually enjoying it."

Rees said despite the idea of portraying art in a way that everyone else sees fit, she wanted to flip the status quo and give people art they can peacefully enjoy.

Her legacy also includes a bronze sculpture of Padre Jose Nicolas Balli — which sits at the Nueces County Courthouse.

On top of being an expert sculptor, Rees is also a painter and currently has dozens of pieces inside her home that she's created herself.

One of her paintings hangs outside her front door for everyone to see. It shows a mother and child clinging close together.

"I made this painting impromptu," Rees said. "I actually found the frame first, then I just painted whatever I felt."

When Rees is not painting and expressing her artistic creativity, she said she likes to go to museums and relax outside in the sun at Mirador Retirement Community.

Ms. Rees' talent has influenced many Texas artists, and her artwork here in Corpus Christi has helped build a legacy that will continue to live on.

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