Our Studio Sunday feature today is California artist Jay DeFeo. DeFeo was associated with the beat generation, and was connected to the literary and musical aspects of the time period, as well as visual arts. DeFeo studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and later in Europe, before moving back to California and working in a studio space in Oakland.
The space pictured above seems almost sparse -- the artist’s abstract works are lined up against the wall but the floors seem relatively clear. I imagine there must be an easel or desk just out of the camera’s line of site. DeFeo herself lends the image a sense of immediacy and energy -- the artist was known for her outspoken personality and experimental approach to art-making, and that seems to come through clearly even in her posture here.
In her practice, DeFeo tended toward mixed media, producing paintings with not only traditional pigments, but with materials like concrete and plaster. She was perhaps best known for her painting The Rose, which she worked on between 1958 and 1966. The painting, composed of oil paint and other mixed media, was over ten and a half feet high, a foot thick, and weighed around one US ton. There’s no sign of The Rose in this studio view -- reportedly that work had to be removed from DeFeo’s apartment with a forklift after the artist was evicted in 1966.
In the 1970s, later in her career, DeFeo became interested in photography, and set up a darkroom in her home at the time to help produce these works. The artist died of lung cancer in 1989, and The Rose is currently held in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art.