Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jay Defreo's Rose

Jay DeFreo is best known for her monumental painting (12' high and weighing close to a ton) called "The Rose."

For eight years it was pretty much all she worked on at an apartment in San Francisco she shared with her husband.  She loved to entertain and share her life with the other Beat Scene artists of the time and the legend of the painting travelled to the east coast and her work was included in a show curated by Dorothy Miller in 1959 called "Sixteen Americans." 

DeFreo did not attend the show and neither did her monumental painting which eventually had to be removed from the apartment along with part of an exterior wall - by a crane - when a rent increase meant eviction for the artist and her husband, Wally Hedrick.
Jay DeFreo working on The Rose in San Francisco
by Jerry Burchard
No longer able to work on the painting, a work that both created her legacy but at the time caused the momentum of her art career to stall.  Depression followed a lifestyle that was immersed in this obsession with one work and a whole lot of partying. She and her husband divorced and she didn't create art at all for the next four years.

The Rose eventually ended up in a conference room at the San Francisco Art Institute (eventually covered by a false wall) to later be removed and restored after her death from lung cancer in 1989. 

Last year there was a retrospective of her work at The Whitney Museum of American Art.
Jay DeFreo's  The Rose at The Whitney Museum of Modern Art
photo by Philip Greenberg for The New York Times
Here is a short film about the retrospective:

Much of her artwork is held in The Jay DeFeo Trust which she set up before her death.  This site shows photos of much of her work over the years;  many of the photos she created in the 1970's; The Loop Series, Tripod Series, Shoetree Series, Compass Series, and some of her paintings from the 70's, Lotus Eater and Cabbage Rose.  And her work in the 1980's; Eternal Triangle, Summer Landscape, Impressions of Africa, Samurai, La Brea, Mirage, Blue Nile and Black Canyon... and more. 

She created for herself and for no one else and I love the authenticity of it.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about British artist, Rita Donagh.

I hope you are enjoying your day.

'Til tomorrow!