In 1958, Jay DeFeo made a 7-foot-wide drawing of a pair of eyes. The model for the drawing was most likely a small black-and-white photograph of her face, cropped to show only the horizontal strip of her eyes. For DeFeo, looking at the photograph of her eyes while making the work was similar to the process of seeing her own reflection in a mirror. When DeFeo made The Eyes
, she was thinking about vision and imagining what would come next for her as an artist. This drawing was the “opening” through which DeFeo was able to picture what her following works would be—in particular, her painting The Rose
(1958–66). Notice how the vertical lines in the drawing are like a veil that transforms her eyes into something different and more mysterious than a real pair of eyes.
On the back of the drawing, DeFeo wrote a few lines of a poem by Philip Lamantia: “Tell Him I have eyes only for Heaven / as I look to you / Queen mirror / of the heavenly court.” She used this as the title of the drawing for several years before it became known simply as The Eyes.