Jay DeFeo

The Eyes
1958

Not on view

Date
1958

Classification
Drawings

Medium
Graphite pencil on paper

Dimensions
Sheet (Sight): 42 × 84 3/4in. (106.7 × 215.3 cm)

Accession number
96.242.3

Credit line
Gift of the Lannan Foundation

Rights and reproductions
© The Jay DeFeo Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One of several works in which Jay DeFeo addresses the act of seeing, either through title or subject matter, The Eyes was inspired by a photograph of the artist. DeFeo later spoke of The Eyes as having “something of a prophetic meaning,” a precursor to her envisioning her signature work, The Rose (1958-66). Apart from personal references, DeFeo's ambitious sense of scale, along with the numerous vertical striations and erasures across the disembodied eyes, make this image of a familiar subject arresting and unexpected. DeFeo inscribed the back of this drawing with a stanza from a poem by Beat poet Philip Lamantia: “Tell him I have eyes only for Heaven as I look to you Queen Mirror of the Heavenly Court.”  


Audio

  • Where We Are, Spanish

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    0:00

    Narrator: Cuando DeFeo realizó The Eyes, la artista pensaba en la visión en un sentido profundo y casi profético; imaginó lo que vendría después en su labor como artista. Habló de este dibujo en 1980.

    Jay DeFeo: Fue un dibujo muy importante para mí. Fue casi una experiencia visionaria, como si viera de adentro hacia afuera.

    Narrator: Leah Levy es directora y co-fiduciaria del Fondo Jay DeFeo en Berkeley, California.

    Leah Levy: Este dibujo es de los propios ojos de Jay DeFeo. Está realizado a gran escala y usó una fotografía pequeña de sus ojos como modelo. Las marcas verticales son una especie de entelado o velo. No sabemos con certeza lo que estaba pensando o lo que representan, pero de ser un dibujo realista o casi hiperrealista lo transforman en algo que no solo es más misterioso sino también más visionario, en algo más etéreo.

  • Where We Are, Kids, Spanish

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    0:00

    Mark Joshua Epstein:  Estamos frente a una obra de Jay DeFeo llamada The Eyes, y me pregunto qué les llama la atención acerca de esta obra de arte.

    Estudiante 1: Al verse solo los ojos, es como si se hiciera borroso todo lo demás, incluso todo lo que está cerca de los ojos.

    Estudiante 2: Yo me fijé que, en el centro, donde tendría que estar la nariz, solo hay como… Me recuerdan a lonchas.

    Estudiante 1: Parece que te estuviera mirando directamente.

    Mark Joshua Epstein:  Jay DeFeo estaba mirando una fotografía de sus propios ojos, la artista estaba mirando una fotografía de sus propios ojos cuando creó esta obra de arte, y me pregunto: ¿creen que contaría como autorretrato aun cuando solo incluye los ojos?

    Estudiante 2: Yo creo que sí porque, aunque no se muestre la cara entera, los ojos transmiten mucho de alguna manera.

    Estudiante 1: Quizás esté viendo algo triste, porque a veces se compara la tristeza con algo que se ha rajado o roto, así que podría estar mirando algo triste.

    Estudiante 2: Creo que, a veces, una fotografía parece muy real, pero a veces si algo no es muy realista o si es bastante realista pero con un toque diferente te hace pensar más.

  • Where We Are, Kids

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    0:00

    Mark Joshua Epstein: We’re looking at a piece by Jay DeFeo called The Eyes, and I'm wondering, what do you notice about this art work?

    Student 1: To make it just the eyes they kind of blur out everythinglike everything even close to the eyes.

    Student 2: I noticed that in the middle, like where the nose should be, it’s just kind of like almost, it reminds me of slices almost.

    Student 3: It looks like it is just staring right at you.

    Mark Joshua Epstein: Jay DeFeo was looking at a photograph of her own eyesthe artist was looking at a photograph of her own eyes when she made this artwork and I'm wondering, do you think it counts as a self-portrait even though it’s just her eyes?

    Student 1: I think it does count because even though it doesn’t show your entire whole face, the eyes sort of convey a lot.

    Student 2: Maybe she is looking at sadness or something, because sometimes people would compare sadness to something being cracked or broken, so she could be looking at something sad.

    Student 3: I think that sometimes like a photograph looks very real, but sometimes if something is not super realistic, or if it’s kind of realistic with a little bit of something like a twist, it gives you more to think about.

  • Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    Jay DeFeo, The Eyes, 1958

    0:00

    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. 

    Jay DeFeo: 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. 

    Narrator: Leah Levy is Director and Co-Trustee of the Jay DeFeo Trust in Berkeley, California. 

    Leah Levy: 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. 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.




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