Dehner planned to study sculpture at the Arts Students League, but, turned off by the conservative offerings, she ended up pursuing painting and printmaking instead. It wasn’t until 1955, at the age of 54—four years after ending her tempestuous marriage to David Smith—that she returned to sculpture, the medium with which she would gain widespread recognition. Just two years later, Dehner was picked up by New York’s prestigious Willard Gallery. “I was never taught sculpture at all; nobody told me anything,” she once said. “I didn’t need it. The minute I had [the wax] in my hands, I knew what to do.” For the next three decades, Dehner experimented with an array of materials, starting with rectilinear, Surrealism-influenced cast bronze, which resulted in works such as her totem-like “Cenotaph” and “Ladder” series. In the mid-’70s, she made geometric wood sculptures layered with various shapes and symbols, some as high as 10 feet.