April 17, 2024


Simple Impartial Art

The enduring art of Lois Dodd

Unstoppable: The Enduring Art of Lois Dodd


Lois Dodd demonstrates that art-creating is not a occupation or an occupation, it is a way of everyday living

by Cynthia Close

Most people today glance ahead to retirement, generally beginning all over age 65, but artists typically carry on to perform, some-instances for a long time longer, even up until finally their closing hrs. Illustrations abound all through art record of creatives who were actively evolving—inventing new strategies and discovering new media—in their elder several years, even as their well being declined. For several persons, the act of earning artwork is restorative, providing a font of energy that can be renewed working day by day, 12 months right after calendar year, enabling them to manage their efficiency as they age.

When the New Jersey-born modernist painter Lois Dodd was asked about her “practice,” she bristled at the word. “Doctors and legal professionals have a ‘practice,’ artists have a lifetime,” she mentioned. This conversation occurred during an on the net interview and dialogue with Dodd and artist Eric Aho, in conjunction with the 2020 exhibition “Figuration Never ever Died: New York Painterly Painting 1950–1970,” at Vermont’s Brattleboro Museum (see a video clip of the job interview at little bit.ly/dodd-brattleboro). It was a uncommon instant interrupting the typically relaxed demeanor of the 95-calendar year-outdated Dodd, who sat patiently answering myriad concerns from the participating viewers associates. She was open up, thoughtful, and engaged, just as she was all through her interview for this report, inspite of the pressure of getting ready for her once-a-year summer season transition to Maine.

Sunflower Petal in Grass
(2010 oil on aluminum flashing, 5×7)

THE ARTIST’S Everyday living

Though Dodd thinks of artmaking as integral to her life—more so than a “practice” or career—certain instructional and skilled milestones are worthy of noting.

At a youthful age, Dodd misplaced her mother to cancer and, quickly immediately after, her father, a service provider maritime, died at sea. The good thing is, her more mature sister was by now performing as head-of-home in the course of the father’s voyages, and as such, she was ready to preserve some perception of household security and continuity. The artist attended higher university in Montclair, N.J., which she recollects possessing “a lovely art room with a skylight.” She discovered from her art instructor that she could pursue her creative passions, tuition no cost, at the Cooper Union, in Manhattan’s East Village. Like her close pal and colleague, Mel Leipzig, Dodd discovered her craft at this establishment. It was also at Cooper that she achieved her sculptor partner, Bill King (1925–2015).

Dodd was an energetic member of the avant-garde Tenth Road artwork scene, a unfastened-knit coalition of artist-operate galleries operating with low budgets and presenting a 1950s–60s different to the high-stop, far more doctrinaire gallery procedure. She was the only feminine founder of the cooperative Tanager Gallery, wherever she exhibited from 1952 to 1962. The artist supplemented her artmaking with a educating placement at Brooklyn School until finally her retirement in 1992.

“I just cannot invent something. I require to observe from life.”


Dodd’s initially portray to enter a museum assortment was The Watch By way of Elliot’s Shack Hunting South (1971), acquired by New York City’s Museum of Fashionable Art. With her usual endurance and equanimity, she opinions, “If you hold out very long adequate, the planet comes to you.”

These days, Dodd’s paintings of scenes from her apartment in New York City’s Decrease East Side and from her family residence in Blairstown, N.J., around the Delaware H2o Hole, as nicely as views of the woods and gardens close to her summertime retreat in Maine, are much in demand. She’s at this time rep-resented by the prestigious Alexandre Gallery, in Manhattan, and has been bundled in a lot of solo and team exhibitions considering the fact that the 1950s, but it wasn’t until finally 2013, when Dodd was 85, that she was specified her to start with museum retrospective, titled “Catching the Mild,” at the Kemper Museum of Modern Artwork, in Kansas City.

Evening Streetlight, Rockgarden Inn
(2011 oil on aluminum flashing, 7×5)
(1962 oil on linen, 58×65)
Blue Towel
(1982 oil on Masonite, 16×15)


Dodd’s compositions are a item of, as she puts it, “finding and framing the day to day.” There is a naturalness, an unforced high quality in all the artist’s function. “I don’t want to set factors up,” she claims. As a final result, her paintings really feel inevitable—Zen-like. They simply just are. The matter make any difference of her function is wide, but a limited tonal colour palette is a signature aspect operating through the artist’s oeuvre.

For her early get the job done, Dodd would make drawings on internet site and then return to the studio to paint the compositions on a larger sized scale, making use of oil on linen canvas. “I experimented with acrylic,” claims Dodd, “but it felt like chewing gum.”

It took the artist some time to adapt to direct painting en plein air with no preliminary drawing. She found operating on gessoed Masonite panels, no greater than 20 inches on the longest aspect, authorized her to start and end a painting in 1 outing. “It has to be one session,” she claims. “You start and retain likely until eventually you end.” 

A scholar launched Dodd to aluminum flashing, a roofing building materials, as a painting surface. Dodd, who performs by yourself and has no studio assistant, claims, “I like to do all the chores—gessoing and sanding the aluminum surface—myself.” Sunflower Petal in Grass and Night Streetlight, Rockgarden Inn, each painted on aluminum flashing, are very little gems.

Evening Sky Loft
(1973 oil on linen, 66×54)
Drop Window
(2014 oil on linen, 66×48)
Nude Leaning Back again Blue Sky
(2020 oil on aluminum flashing, 7×5)

In addition to shifting her approach and portray surface about the many years, Dodd made her design and style and compositional solution. Her 1962 portray Pond has a loose, open up-air, gestural top quality that appears to be nearer in design and style to the perform of Willem de Kooning (1904–97) than to Dodd’s a lot more immediately observational, figurative perform that adopted. Night time Sky Loft and Drop Window are substantial oil paintings—both of which use a window as the major structural element—demonstrate extremely distinctive compositional strategies.

A single attribute that stays regular in her work, however, is an egalitarian approach to her topic make a difference. In a portray by Dodd, a single piece of laundry hanging on a line retains as a great deal significance as a single of her not often existing human figures. Blue Towel is animated by a slight breeze, even though in Nude Leaning Again – Blue Sky, the determine is caught motionless, wedged involving the top and bottom edge of the frame. Dodd also tends to close in on her focal point. Landscapes, from this artist’s viewpoint, are not grand vistas stretching into significantly horizons—and her uniform tonal excellent obliterates the frequent modifications of daylight and shadow, producing the graphic timeless.

In typical, Dodd’s paintings are like haiku or meditations. They radiate a tranquil perception of quiet—a put of retreat, which we can all use a very little a lot more of in our life.