She was part of New York City's post-World War II art scene, a close friend of the influential critic Clement Greenberg. Ward was known within the artistic circle for taking photos of stars like Helen Frankenthaler.
But while Ward kept painting, she remained unheralded. Greenberg after Ward's death in 1989 at last praised her, but never during her lifetime.
Now, Ward's work is gaining acclaim. Louisiana writer John Ed Bradley in an article in the current Garden & Gun says he's become devoted to Ward's work, and keeps acquiring more and more of her paintings.
Bradley, an accomplished novelist known for his memoir about playing football at LSU for coach Charlie McClendon, "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium," gives an impassioned discourse on art's power.
Ward, born in 1920 in Eunice, La., was trained as a nurse in New Orleans and married a physician before leaving him to study art at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she met Greenberg.
After further studies at the Bauhaus in Chicago, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a nurse while pursuing her art. She also received a master's degree from Hunter College in New York.
Bradley gives a vivid portrait of Ward as a beautiful, engaged artist dedicated to her work despite her lack of success.
After her death, her paintings were donated to the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The museum held a bargain-basement sale of her work, where Bradley discovered it. At first he was indifferent to her paintings, but they began to mesmerize him.
He's not alone in his passion for Ward and her creations. Her paintings are drawing big-ticket prices at galleries, and the Mobile Museum of Art has acquired a sizable collection of her work. One of her paintings is shown above.
Bradley at the end of his article tells of offering a friend thousands of dollars for one of Ward's paintings. The friend wouldn't sell.
It's sad that Greenberg neglected his friend's work. But now, Ward's moment has arrived.