This Louisville painter, graphic artist and educator was born in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, into a Louisville family who had summered there since the early 1900s. She spent 30 years of her life in Amagansett, New York.
Her early art studies in Rome, Italy, led her to the Art Students League in New York City and then to the University of Louisville, where she studied with Ulfert Wilke. Other artists she studied with included Carlos Merida, Worden Day, Guy Pène du Bois and Juro Kubicek.
She was on the staff of the Art Center School in Louisville from the 1940s to the 1970s and was a lecturer in art at the University of Louisville. She had been a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors since 1938.
The artist actively exhibited her work from the 1930s through the 1980s, with shows at the Art Club of Louisville, the University of Louisville, the Louisville Art Center, the Ruth Sherman and Morton galleries in New York, the Swearingen Gallery in Louisville and the Brooklyn Museum. Among the cities she showed in were Miami, Sarasota and Palm Beach, Florida, San Diego, California, Bristol, Virginia, Dallas, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Montpellier, France.
She is in numerous private and institutional collections, including the Philadelphia Print Club, the Speed Art Museum, the Seagram Collection of Kentucky Art, the Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science in Indiana, the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina and the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York.
Willis is featured in PFA Press's Louisville Modern: an era in art.