Twenty Years After Her Death, Dorothy Dehner Is Celebrated for Her Voice and Vision
Though she studied dance and theater, and acted for a time in Off Broadway productions in New York, Dorothy Dehner found her truest passion in making art. “Just making art itself is the great thing. It has always been my biggest thrill. It’s a joy, a high, better than ten martinis!” she once exclaimed. Her early studies in movement and drama informed her energetic, gestural paintings, drawings, and sculptures. She remained largely under-the-radar until the 1950s, when a cascade of events both tumultuous—she divorced her husband, the sculptor Dorothy Dehner: Compositions and Constructions,” at Valerie Carberry Gallery.
“I was never taught sculpture at all; nobody told me anything. I didn’t need it. The minute I had [the wax] in my hands, I knew what to do,” Dehner once said about her movement into three dimensions, referring to the ancient lost-wax method she used to cast her first sculpture, a small bronze work influenced by
A number of her sculptures are composed of precariously stacked, variously shaped individual pieces. Like the skyscrapers that surrounded her, they rise vertiginously upwards, with each individual unit dependent on the next to maintain their delicate vertical balance. To remove one piece would be to disrupt this exquisite equilibrium and to risk that the entire structure would come toppling down.