NARRATOR: In 1953, DeFeo returned to Berkeley. After painting so intensely in Florence, she shifted her attention to sculpture.
DANAMILLER: She was so impressed by the surfaces of Florence and the patina of age and tried to, in some way, incorporate that type of texture and that sense of time into her pieces.
NARRATOR: The archaic feeling of DeFeo’s sculptures comes in part from her use of modest materials.
DANAMILLER: Of course, some of her choices were dictated by affordability and availability, and she was using what was readily at hand and cheap, which was very common at that point in the 1950s, if you look at what artists in New York were doing as well, but I think it’s reflective of the very open atmosphere of Abstract Expressionism—that there was a real sense of possibility, that anything and everything could be a material for a work of art. And in her case, it was rags, wood, plaster.
NARRATOR: Most of the sculptures from this period were much larger than this one, and no longer exist. DeFeo would fill her studio with them, rearranging them from day to day—as if they were parts of a larger environment instead of discrete objects in themselves.