Varah Jane "VJ" Tate

Varah Jane  "VJ" Tate

Varah Jane “VJ” Tate (b. 1930)

(Mrs. Frank C. Dolejska; Mrs. Blair Edward Wilkins)

Painter, watercolorist, printmaker, craftsperson, sculpture. 


Varah Jane “VJ” Tate was born in Waco, Texas in 1930. She graduated from Grand Prairie High School. Her first husband was artist Frank Dolejska. Tate was a public school teacher in Taos, New Mexico in 1971. Her sister was artist Sammy Tate Heaton. Her second husband was a photographer and artist, Blair Edward Wilkins.



1948-1952       BFA, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas


Biographical & Career Highlights

1940, 47-48     Sammy Tate-Heaton's Jewelry, Dallas, Texas. Apprentice to sister in designing, cutting, and fabricating metals- silver, copper, gold. Produced jewelry and furniture for retail and wholesale markets and display in competitive shows.

1940-50           University of Texas, Austin, Texas; modeling for life drawing and painting classes on campus.

1948-1952       The University of Texas, Austin, Texas. Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art education and applied art. All level art teaching certificate for Texas Public Schools, high school art certificate, and all subject elementary school certificate. Graduated with honors. Worked part time.

1950 - 1952     Worked as assistant to Kelly Fearing, painter and art education chairman. Worked with public school art teachers to collect ideas and techniques, especially art material sources.

1954 - 1956     The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. Taught art classes for children age 3 - 15. Lectured adult docents on art history, painting analysis, and biographies of artists to enhance museum tours. Temporary shows included oriental tapestries and Chinese painting and sculpture, European Impressionists, Post Impressionists, Southwest U. S. painters, abstract painters. Designed, selected, and installed children's art shows.

1955-1965       Won two Hughes Tool Awards for landscape oil paintings made in Houston, Texas, that were shown and purchased locally.

1955 - 1966     Helped found a comprehensive craft market and store, 'Handmakers,' on Main Street in Houston, Texas. For ten years created and sold garden sculpture, sundials, birdbaths, swimming pool furniture, mosaic topped tables, and garden fountains built directly (not cast) of copper, brass, mosaic stones, and stained glass (not leaded).

1973                Taos, New Mexico (world famous art center), did 6 leather inlay pictures.

1978 - 1988     Taos, New Mexico, painted thirty-six oil landscapes; custom framed all. Tutored by Sterling Ohlinger, who became a consistent and dependable critic of paintings and helped achieve a global advancement in quality and composition; he gave her a one-person show at his studio in August 1987.

1988 – 2000    Designed and assisted in building her hand-made studio and home where she also created and accumulated many of her own oil and gold leaf landscape paintings.

2000                Concentrated near her studio on plein-aire landscapes.

2001                Taos Institute of the Arts plein-aire workshop, instructor, Rich Nichols, instructor; received Certificate of Completion.

2001-2004       Showed at Navarro Gallery, Taos, New Mexico (always taking up at least one room); 2 one person shows and top sales of all painters for 3 years.

2001                Hour and a half radio bio-interview on "Who Are You" show, KTAO, Taos, New Mexico FM.

2002                Gave to: Child-Rite Auction, Taos, New Mexico; one sold and notices in Southwest Art magazine; Children's Art Museum Benefit; two sold; Taos Institute of the Arts Fundraiser.

2003                Received Sumasil Arts grant via Wesst Corps. Three paintings in permanent collection of Wesst Corps, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Donated to: Taos Institute for the Arts Fundraiser; Paint-Athon Benefit, Amigos Bravos (Friends of the Wild Rivers), Taos, New Mexico.

2004                Annual Poster Entry Show at Taos Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center. 

Envision Gallery, Taos, two-month one-person show of thirty-six paintings.

Gave one floral painting to Taos Land Trust fundraiser.

Current - Child-Rite Auction; notices in Southwest Art magazine.

Three paintings reproduced, art section of Santa Fe Names and Numbers Phone Book.

"Taos Open" annual art display at Taos Convention Center. 

Notices, stories, and reproductions in: Horsefly, Southwest Art, Taos News, Art Talk, Art News, KT AO - Taos FM and KT AO .com.

2004-Present  Paintings on permanent display at Envision Gallery (member, Taos Gallery Association)

2005                Four paintings reproduced in art section of Taos Names and Numbers Phone Book.


Selected Exhibitions:

1954                29th Annual Exhibition of Works by Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (Golden Rod; Oyster Shells); Hughes Tool Co. Prize: Golden Rod 

1955                30th Annual Exhibition of Works by Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (Trees at Night; Mountain Pines); Art League of Houston Award of $100: Mountain Pines 

1955                31st Annual Exhibition of Works by Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX (Girl with Flowers; Sangre de Christo, etching & drypoint)

1957                Yard Art, Contemporary Arts Association (now Contemporary Arts Museum), Houston, TX

1960                La Porte-Bayshore Garden Club (metal wall decorations)



Wesst Corps, Albuquerque, New Mexico

*Numerous public and private collections in many states and distant places, i.e. Hawaii, London and Australia



Artist Statement:

I begin with working visions, dreams, memories, photo images ( at rare times), occasional requests from others, and on the spot observations as in "plain-aire" painting, combinations of the above, plus a life size plan of the picture using same basic design in drawing and/ or watercolor; but with no lines on the painting. 


Beginning with bare, double sided tempered masonite panels I spend two or three sessions mixing old-school gesso, cleaning and sanding. Then two or three more sessions applying the gesso (the gold size in highlights of the painting). Then comes the sexy experience of actually laying down this illusive leaf, and afterwards applying retouch varnish on a sunny day. With music in the foreground, I apply the oil paint with brush, knife and fingertips in one continuous sweep traditionally called "a la prima". 


I do little past this except guard the "baby" from moisture, dust, cat hairs and face down tumbles. And then accepting the product as a temporary attachment for enjoyment.

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