DANAMILLER: In the spring of 1988, DeFeo had a persistent cough and went to the doctor, and by April of that year she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Once the shock of the diagnosis wore off, she resolved to fight the cancer with everything that she could, and she continued to make work.
NARRATOR: The following year, she found a wounded dove in her basement. She took it to a veterinarian in the hope that they might save it, but it was too late, and the bird died.
DANAMILLER: She wrote that she identified with that bird, and was really thrown by its demise, and had a very strong memory of the eye of the bird in the box looking at her.
The eye spoke to her, presumably, as a visual element, formally, because she was so attracted to that ocular shape and to the notion of vision and perception. But also because here was an animal fighting for its life.
She said she couldn’t bear to look at the bird. The only thing that she could bear to see was its eye, and took that vision to be a symbol of strength and its valiancy in the face of enormous suffering, and made a pair of works, Dove One and Dove Two, in response to that moment and that experience.
She said about Dove One and Dove Two in her journal that she’d never been able to directly express and paint a feeling about a life happening, and felt that she had finally been able to do so with that pair of works.