Helen Altman

(American, b. 1958)
Fourteen torch drawings, variable dates (2001 to 2012)
Torch drawings on paper; variable dimensions
Acquired in 2012


Helen Altman addresses themes of ephemerality, imperfection, and destruction within poignant images of flora and fauna. A native Alabaman, Altman holds a deep appreciation of the natural world and she is known to work with a variety of mediums including photography, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, and textiles. Yet the artist’s distinct, often humorous voice is consistently present. In her recognized torch drawings series, Altman uses a hand-held blowtorch to burn images of animals on white paper, creating a new way of drawing and depicting these loved and feared creatures in the process. She created these drawings by first soaking paper in water and then carefully burning an image into the surface. The process leaves little room for error as the surface must remain wet otherwise it will ignite; there is no re-torching. Altman’s torch drawings range from delicate depictions of water birds and exotic animals to more comical portrayals of household pets. Here we see a grouping of common, native Texas animals that highlight her remarkably detailed and delicate lines on paper. Altman received her BFA in 1981 and her MA in 1986, both from the University of Alabama, followed by her MFA in 1989, from the University of North Texas. She currently lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas.


University of Houston at Sugar Land
Brazos Hall

Artworks by this Artist

Armadillo (4), 2012

Mockingbird, 2007

Pelican, 2011

Running Rabbit, 2002

Coyote Watching, 2009

Burrowing Owl (2), 2012

Wart Hog, 2001

Puma (dark cat), 2012

Roadrunner (running), 2009

Two Black Cows, 2002

Young Horse Looking Back, 2011

Rattler, 2012

Spotted Deer (with burn hole), 2009

Tall Blue Heron, 2011