Lotus Eater No. 1

In 1973, DeFeo received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts what allowed her to buy a medium-format camera and set up a home darkroom. These additional resources served to intensify her interest in the photographic medium as well as revisit some of her earlier works with new insight.

It was this same year, at the suggestion of fellow artist Bruce Conner, that DeFeo began to produce a series of photo collages comprised of photographs she had taken of her surroundings. Like her photographs, DeFeo’s collages were not only an adaptation to available materials and space, but also a new well of source material for her paintings.

In 1974, DeFeo revisited a number of these photographs and collages as models for large-scale paintings. Lotus Eater No.1 is a work that emerges out of this period; the title of which alludes to both DeFeo’s interest in antiquity as well as the polarity of dreams and reality.

While the form of Lotus Eater echoes the ancient, amphora-shape of earlier works like Doctor Jazz (1958), she likely pulled its model from masked elements of her recent collages, such as the cropped image of a flame-shaped light bulb or a shrouded camera tripod. It is this ability to seamlessly merge source materials with symbolic complexity that gives so much of DeFeo work such ineffable weight.

San Francisco, CA, Wenger Gallery, Jay DeFeo: Paintings, 1974
Hope, ID, The Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery, Jay DeFeo, 1979
Walla Walla, WA, Sheehan Gallery, Jay DeFeo, 1980
San Francisco, CA, John Berggruen Gallery, Jay DeFeo: Four Decades, 1996
Oakland, CA, Mills College Art Museum, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2001
Boise, ID, Boise Museum of Art, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2002
Richmond, VA, March Art Gallery, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2002
Durham, NH, University of New Hampshire, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2002
El Paso, TX, El Paso Museum of Art, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2003
Lexington, KY, University of Kentucky Art Museum, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2003
New Orleans, Newcomb Gallery, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2004
Denver, Center for the Visual Arts, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2004
New Orleans, LA, Newcomb Gallery, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2004
Denver, CO, Center for the Visual Arts, True Grit: Seven Female Visionaries Before Feminism, 2004
New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Jay DeFeo, 2014

Bill Ivey, New York, A Creative Legacy: A History of the National Endowment for the Arts, 2001, illustrated p. 171
Walead Beshty, Jay DeFeo, New York, 2014, illustrated p. 53

The Estate of Jay DeFeo, San Francisco

About Jay DeFeo

Jay DeFeo has been variously labeled as an Abstract Expressionist, a Beatnik, and a funk artist, though she personally did not identify with any movement. Often considered under-recognized in the canon of American art, DeFeo's 2013 retrospective at the Whitney Museum gave her groundbreaking oeuvre the long overdue attention it warranted. Her first body of work was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, though she would later make semi-representational works. DeFeo's influences ranged from Italian architecture to Asian, African, and pre-historic art. Her works were cross-disciplinary in medium, spanning sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, and collage. When painting, DeFeo applied her material thickly, often using a palette knife rather than a brush and mixing in unorthodox materials. Between 1958 and 1966, DeFeo created what became one of the best-known works of her career, The Rose—it had such thick impasto that it was considered a relief, or as DeFeo referred to it: “a marriage between painting and sculpture.” In other works she explored and reconfigured everyday objects.

American , 1929-1989, Hanover, New Hampshire, based in San Francisco, California

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

2016
Women of Abstract Expressionism, Denver Art Museum, Denver
2015
JAY DEFEO / ALTER EGO, Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco
2014
FIAC 2014, Mitchell-Innes & Nash
2014
Jay DeFeo, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York City