LEAHLEVY: Approaching The Jewel, there’s an explosion of paint.
NARRATOR: Leah Levy.
LEAHLEVY: As we get closer to it we see the depth and the richness of the paint. There are browns and reds and something extremely raw and visceral to my eye about this painting. And yet there’s an organizational, crystalline nature to it, with rays emanating from the center.
The thickness of the paint in The Jewel recalls DeFeo’s comment that her works of this period were a marriage of painting and sculpture. She used oil paint as if it were a sculptural material, hacking at it, building it up, and breaking it apart. And The Jewel, actually, in some places, looks as if it is a three-dimensional object being broken apart by the sheer energy of the eruption at its center.
NARRATOR: DeFeo began The Jewel in 1958, and worked on it for about two years. At the same time, she began a work that would eventually become The Rose. In her mind, the two works were opposite aspects of a single vision. She painted The Jewel in warm reds and golden browns, and built the paint up so that the work was convex at the center. The Rose was black and white, and concave at the center. DeFeo understood The Jewel as a positive life force. The Rose, which she initially titled Deathrose, had darker connotations. DeFeo often worked on more than one piece at a time, exploring complementary ideas in each.