NARRATOR: DeFeo made this painting during a six-month stay in Florence in 1952. She used broad, vigorous brushstrokes. At the time, she was working with great speed and urgency. Using inexpensive tempera paint, she made hundreds of paintings, primarily on paper—working at such a fevered pitch that near the end of her visit she was treated by a doctor for exhaustion.
DANAMILLER: Many of the works that she made in Florence depict a cruciform. Not a crucifix, because there’s rarely the imagery of a body on a cruciform, but the cruciform itself. Of course, this was a shape that was ubiquitous in Florence.
NARRATOR: Dana Miller is Curator of the Permanent Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art and curator of Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective.
DANAMILLER: She said that the imagery appealed to her not for its religious connotations, but as a formal vocabulary, that she was really interested in it as a shape, and I think, in particular, its application to the body, the way that it represents the body in an abstract manner.
NARRATOR: It was in Florence that DeFeo really began to find her own voice as an artist. To hear about all of the interests she was trying to synthesize, please tap your screen.