John Yau considers the work of painter Jay DeFeo. A retrospective of DeFeo's work is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) through February 3, 2012. The exhibition will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York from February 28 – June 2, 2013.
Yau writes: "DeFeo was a religious painter in secular clothing that wanted to integrate the sacred and the profane. Her works repeatedly suggest that one never quite escapes dirt and decay. At times, there is something grim and joyless running through her work, which is another reason why it strikes me as more medieval than anything we associate with the Renaissance. Paradoxically, in the drawings there is a lightness of touch that folds another level of feeling into them. DeFeo seems to have lived a messy life on a number of levels, often saving things most of us would throw away — the handle of a broken coffee cup, the discarded orthopedic cast worn by her dog wore when he had a broken leg, and the Christmas trees she kept while living on Fillmore. These things would become inspirations for various artworks. In them one senses DeFeo’s belief in talismans and occult power."