LEAHLEVY: This drawing is of Jay DeFeo’s own eyes. It’s done at a very large scale, and she used a small photograph of her own eyes as a model for this.
NARRATOR: Leah Levy is Director and Co-Trustee of the Jay DeFeo Trust in Berkeley, California.
LEAHLEVY: The vertical marks are kind of a scrim or a veil. We don’t specifically know what she was thinking or what they represent, but they turn it from a realistic or almost super realistic drawing into something that’s not only more mysterious, but that’s more visionary, that’s more otherworldly.
NARRATOR: When DeFeo made The Eyes, she was thinking about vision in a deep, almost prophetic sense—imagining what would come next for her as an artist. She spoke about the drawing in 1980.
JAYDEFEO: At the risk of sounding a little bit overly romantic or something, I really kind of felt as though I was seeing The Rose to come through the doing of this drawing. It was a very important drawing for me to do. It was almost a kind of visionary experience for me, as though I were seeing from the inside out.