Gloria Hansen here.
I’ve recently been in a place of pause, not making as much art as I’d like due to a variety of circumstance. Such times have happened in the past, and I’m sure they will happen in the future. What’s important is finding a way to accept the cycle of creative flows and keep myself open to what’s around me. One way of doing this is taking in some art exhibitions with the hope that something strikes a chord and gives me a needed creative jolt.
In late January while in San Francisco attending MacWorld, I spent a day at SFMOMA initially to see a Jasper Johns exhibit. While I enjoyed viewing that exhibit, what truly knocked my socks off and moved me to near tears was another exhibit called Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective. I didn’t know much of her, but learned while perusing some information that she was an artist of the Beat generation of San Francisco who died of cancer in 1989 at age 60. The more I viewed her work and learned, the more overwhelmed I became. The retrospective is now at The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC until June 2, 1013, and I encourage anyone, especially those in need of inspiration, to visit.
Her most well-known piece (shown above, and I did get permission to photograph) is The Rose. It weighs nearly one ton (yes, one ton!) and took some eight years to complete. When I first viewed it, which is nearly 12 foot in height and some 8” thick, I thought it was made of layers of painted plaster. It is, however, oil on canvas with wood and mica. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around nearly two thousand pounds of paint in a work she refers to it as “a marriage between painting and sculpture.” It was eye-opening to listen to some of the stories, such as the painting was too large to fit out of her studio door and that a moving company was hired to remove the bay window and lower the work with a forklift! It was only shown for a short time, and she was unable to find a museum home for it. Because some thought it would take over 100 years for the oils to completely dry, eventually it was placed in a plaster mold and put behind a temporary wall for nearly 25 years years before a historic conversation restored it to public view.
However, I didn’t see her most well-known piece until the very end of the exhibit and I was already in complete awe. Pieces such as The Eyes, which is graphite on paper, her many untitled photographs and works on paper, and her oil paintings such as The Jewel, Origin, and The Veronica, held me absolutely captivated. Even without The Rose, I was incredibly moved and humbled by her work. I still am.
If you cannot get to The Whitney, you may enjoy viewing this video, which runs about a half hour and goes through the show. You can learn more about her and her work, including news and events, at The Jay DeFeo Trust's website. I hope her art and story inspires you as it did me.