Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Artist leaves her talent behind, etched in stone


Joe Ann Cousino was renowned for her figurative bronze pieces, but she was noted for her work in other media as well.


Joe Ann Cousino, 82, a renowned sculptor and one of the most eminent artists in the Toledo area for more than 50 years, died Wednesday at her home in Ottawa Hills.

Her family said she had been in failing health for the last year and death resulted from upper respiratory failure.

Mrs. Cousino's sculptures can be seen in public spaces, buildings, and private collections throughout northwest Ohio, in surrounding states, and as far away as Cairo and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Her figurative bronze pieces have won national acclaim and her work has appeared in more than 100 shows nationwide.

Among her most visible sculpture projects are the 6-foot-tall Woman with the Birds at Toledo Botanical Garden, the 7-foot bronze Outreach of a woman and a dove at the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, and the 6-foot, 3-inch St. Clare at the Franciscan convent's gardens in Tiffin.

"She has been such a prominent figure in the Toledo art world, and a lot of that has to do with so many of her pieces being public art," said Greg Jones, former director of the School of Art and Design at the Toledo Museum of Art.

She taught sculpture for most of her life, and until a few months ago gave private lessons from home while teaching adult continuing education classes at the Toledo Museum of Art.

"She had the ability to teach them exactly what they need to sculpt a human figure, and to do that out of a lump of clay is very, very difficult," Mr. Jones said.

In March in Bowling Green, Mrs. Cousino presented her last major sculptural work: a stoneware bust of local silent film star Lillian Gish.

It was a capstone achievement to a distinguished professional career that began to take shape in the late 1940s. Through the years she became known for her industrious work ethic, indomitable spirit, and outspoken nature - traits which availed her rise to prominence during the 1950s in what was then a largely male-dominated sculpture field.

"She was like a dynamo," said Tracey Ladd, one of Mrs. Cousino's art instructor colleagues. "There just weren't a lot of female sculptors [in the 1950s], and she had to struggle a bit to make her artwork."

Mrs. Cousino provided a glimpse of her persona during a 2000 interview with The Blade, in which she explained her approach to instructing students.

"I'm fussy. I'm a taskmaster, and for myself too," she said. "People run all over artists. You learn. I learned the hard way. I sometimes get on the case of these young artists because they just get abused."

Born Joe Ann Bux, she was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. George Carl Bux. She graduated from Scott High School and later the University of Toledo, where she majored in art and minored in English literature. To finance her education, she taught classes in mural painting and glass etching at Toledo's YMCA and YWCA.

She was accepted to study at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York, but chose to stay in Toledo with her fiance, Wayne Kenneth Cousino. The two married in 1948 and divorced in the early 1970s.

Mrs. Cousino was a founding member and later a president of the Toledo Potters' Guild. She focused on sculpture but her work included interior decoration, fashion design, jewelry, ceramics, painting, and architecture. In the early 1950s she designed her family's Ottawa Hills home.

One newspaper profile in 1954 was headlined: "Name any art media, and chances are good that Mrs. Cousino has had experience in it."

Mrs. Cousino traveled the world to research art and cultures, going as far as a village in Egypt in search of tapestries made by Bedouin children.

Surviving are her son, Richard Cousino, and daughter, Paula Cousino.

There will be no visitation or funeral. A memorial service will be June 15 at the Toledo Botanical Garden's Conference Center.

The Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to the Joe Ann Cousino Sculptor Fund for Adult Continuing Education at the Toledo Museum of Art and Design.

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