Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective
Audio Guide Playlist

This audio guide features commentary by artist Jay DeFeo, Dana Miller, curator of the permanent collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, Leah Levy, Director, The Jay DeFeo Trust, Corey Keller, associate curator of photography, San Francisco  Museum of Modern Art, Greil Marcus, writer and critic, Ursula Cipa, and Fred Martin, friends of DeFeo.

DANA MILLER: The two major works that DeFeo first completed when she returned to work in the 1970s are called Crescent Bridge I and Crescent Bridge II that date from 1970 to 72. She spent two years working on the pair.

The subject matter of this, although it's not readily apparent, and DeFeo courted that sense of mystery very purposefully, is a bridge of her teeth, that's actually composed of her real teeth and some dentures, that she used repeatedly as subject matter.

NARRATOR: DeFeo believed she might have lost her teeth due to overexposure to lead paint during her eight years of work on The Rose—though sometimes she attributed the loss to turpentine.

DANA MILLER: It's something that she carried around with her and kept and treated as this precious object, and then rendered in this enormous scale. So one might be able to tell or to derive the original subject matter, but probably not.

To take something so personal as one's teeth and blow it up so that they look like rocky outcropping, is I think a pretty extraordinary step. DeFeo spoke of them as having this otherworldly quality of being in deep space. The documentary evidence of her studio at the time when she's making these works, shows that there are photographs of the surface of the Moon that she was looking at when she was making these pieces. Even though they might be considered still life, that same way she's moving across the traditional categories of still life, and landscape, and portrait, these are landscapes for her.

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