• DEBORAH DANCY: WHAT MIGHT BECOME

     

     curated by melissa messina

  • What Might Become showcases new paintings from 2020 by Deborah Dancy grouped with works on paper from the last five...

    Cataract, 2020, oil on canvas, 56 x 50 inches

    What Might Become showcases new paintings from 2020 by Deborah Dancy grouped with works on paper from the last five years. In so doing, this online viewing room makes visual connections between Dancy’s drawing and painting practice and highlights the ways in which marks, shapes, color palette, and compositional elements have culminated in her work across series and media. In the works we find what the artist describes as “landscapes emotive of the psyche” with formal considerations serving as metaphors for urgency, anxiety, a sense of unrest, and ultimately determination and resolve. What Might Become investigates Dancy’s process, explores her ever-evolving visual language, and testifies to abstraction as a relevant means of expressing struggle and triumph, particularly in these tumultuous times.

     

  • "I’m an intuitive painter. I don’t overly construct a direction or preconceive a painting. I go where the impulse starts to take me, and then I follow. Sometimes I drive the work and sometimes the work drives me."

    Deborah Dancy

     

  • Deborah Dancy does not privilege painting over drawing, but rather finds the drawing process to be its own “distinctive engagement.” Many elements in her drawings find their way into paintings, allowing the works on paper to remain locations where processes such as drips, scrapes, scumbles and linework happen more intuitively. In addition to metaphoric use of color and metonymic use of shape, her painting process often includes a blurring and uncovering of her mark making. A central element to her work, this obscuration is not only a device to keep the viewer intrigued, but also to maintain a defiant secrecy. Abstraction allows Dancy to reveal only as much as she wishes of her ideas and provides the viewer space for personal interpretation.

     

  • "I do things with drawing that frankly I hesitate to do with painting. With drawing, I pour medium and paint and crush stone onto the surface. They feel rowdy and unruly. I think in many ways I’m braver with the drawings. There are elements of the process that happen in drawings that emerge in the paintings, but in the paintings it’s slower, the pace is different, and results end up being more toned down, perhaps more nuanced." 

    Deborah Dancy

     

  • Dancy utilizes the poetic and interpretive nuances of abstraction with great intention. This particular grouping demonstrates the ways in which color informs Dancy’s compositions. Here, a bright periwinkle blue demarcates space, engaging in a push and pull with fine and brushy black linework. The tonal qualities of her palette are also infused with emotion. Often the same color can feel tranquil and bright in one work and present as more somber and subdued in another.

     

  • "I gravitate toward certain colors, I don’t know why. In general I seem to gravitate toward greys, ochres, citron/ greens, warm and cool yellows and pinks (I like using pink because it can be made to feel sweet but also repulsive), and on occasional ultramarine blue. I like to play with color that appears soothing and then create a clash, a bam, an unexpected shift in intensity or value. There are colors that just don’t really speak to me—they don’t even ask and therefore I’m not inclined to seek them out."

    Deborah Dancy

     

  • In Dancy’s work, activations of line and form often embody a sense of urgency and unrest. The pieces in this grouping are vigorously generated with a visceral paint quality sometimes blended directly on the paper or canvas. Dancy describes the Weight of a Million Black Stars drawings, for example, as happening out of anger and frustration after the events of police violence against Black and Brown people. In them we find poured paint and crushed stone dust making a weight and density that is, as the artist describes, “both heavy and fragile.”

     

  • "For me, the shift into abstraction happened in 1974, after the death of my mother. I needed to make work, and the only viable, potent, wretched, heartfelt imagery that explored my grief was possible through abstraction. It’s my language of exploring what isn’t a literal picture of an event or an emotion—it’s embodiment, something felt. After that, I couldn’t turn back, didn’t want to."

    Deborah Dancy

     

     

  • Evident in Dancy's work is a portrayal of the cycles of life-motion and stasis, germination and destruction, abundance and scarcity. Her paintings and works on paper make for loaded, emotive environments. Connected to both the body and the landscape through an organic abstraction, they also reflect how the range of human response is mirrored in natural phenomena. This grouping offers a muted palette, ghostly swathes and finer lines; a subtle and more minimal approach suggestive of quieter, more reflective spaces with bolder linework interrupting the calm.

     

  • "Formal elements are there in the work—as much as I try to get around that, it’s me, it’s who I am. But at the same time, I try to disrupt it as much as I can. What is important to me is to be honest with who I am as an artist. Conceptually, ideas come from a variety of inspirations and sources; everyday events, moments of remembered experiences or sensations, the landscape that surrounds my home, my travels—they all find their way into the paintings."

    Deborah Dancy

     

  • Connected formally and conceptually by the intense period of time in which they were made – all from 2020 – the pieces in this grouping showcase how elements in Throw Me a Lifeline can be found in a number of Dancy’s drawing series. In creating the painting, linear elements developed spontaneously in what the artist describes as “a raw exquisite moment that cannot be orchestrated [and that] you trust is valuable and legitimate.”Its revelations clearly bled into the drawings, with connections made visible in creamy horizontal banding across the Morass series, diagonal lines mapping their direction in Smoke and Mirrors, and tangerine foci circulating throughout the Transmission compositions.  

     

  • Ebb and flow is a part of life, isn’t it? I’m 71. I had a good childhood and life, and I’ve experienced a lot. I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s in Chicago, experienced segregation there as well as in the South where we spent time in the summer. I participated in civil rights marches, anti-Vietnam protests, married, served in the Peace Corps in the early ‘70s, had children, lost parents, taught for 35 years, divorced, and I continued making work. Ebb and flow, transformation, germination and destruction are in my work because my work, in part, is an extension of life, my life. Making the work, the physical act of painting, is transformative. It's a ritualistic dance of starting, then scraping away, repainting and finding something worth saving—I think that’s ebb and flow.

    Deborah Dancy

  • Paintings

    Summary View
  • Drawings

    Summary View
    • Deborah Dancy Morass 7, 2020 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Morass 7, 2020
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Yellow River Pink Fish, 2017 acrylic on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Yellow River Pink Fish, 2017
      acrylic on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy The Weight of a Million Black Stars #3, 2019 acrylic and black crushed stone on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      The Weight of a Million Black Stars #3, 2019
      acrylic and black crushed stone on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Desire Under the Pines, 2017 acrylic on paper 50 x 36 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Desire Under the Pines, 2017
      acrylic on paper
      50 x 36 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Trace 5, 2020 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Trace 5, 2020
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Passionflower, 2017 acrylic on paper 22 1/2 x 30 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Passionflower, 2017
      acrylic on paper
      22 1/2 x 30 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy The Weight of a Million Black Stars #4, 2019 acrylic and black crushed stone on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      The Weight of a Million Black Stars #4, 2019
      acrylic and black crushed stone on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Sticks, 2016 acrylic on paper 22 x 30 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Sticks, 2016
      acrylic on paper
      22 x 30 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Lines of Winter, 2018 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Lines of Winter, 2018
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Time Travelers, 2017 acrylic on paper 40 x 50 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Time Travelers, 2017
      acrylic on paper
      40 x 50 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Seduction, 2017 acrylic on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Seduction, 2017
      acrylic on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy The Weight of a Million Black Stars #12, 2019 acrylic and black crushed stone on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      The Weight of a Million Black Stars #12, 2019
      acrylic and black crushed stone on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Mapping Disappearance 12, 2017 acrylic and watercolor on paper 22 x 30 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Mapping Disappearance 12, 2017
      acrylic and watercolor on paper
      22 x 30 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Morass 4, 2020 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Morass 4, 2020
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy The Weight of a Million Black Stars #1, 2019 acrylic and crushed black stone on paper 50 x 38 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      The Weight of a Million Black Stars #1, 2019
      acrylic and crushed black stone on paper
      50 x 38 inches
      $6,000.00
    • Deborah Dancy Lines of Winter 2, 2018 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Lines of Winter 2, 2018
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Morass, 2020 acrylic on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Morass, 2020
      acrylic on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Transmission 1, 2020 ink on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Transmission 1, 2020
      ink on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Smoke and Mirrors 4 , 2020 acryilc on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Smoke and Mirrors 4 , 2020
      acryilc on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
    • Deborah Dancy Transmission 19 , 2020 ink on paper 30 x 22 inches
      Deborah Dancy
      Transmission 19 , 2020
      ink on paper
      30 x 22 inches
      $3,500.00
  • CLICK TO VISIT DEBORAH DANCY IN HER STUDIO .

    Deborah Dancy

     

    C V

     

    Deborah Dancy was born in Bessemer, Alabama and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She earned BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University and an MS and an MFA from Illinois State University. She is the recipient of John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Yaddo Fellow, and a National Endowment of the Arts NEFA award. Her work is in many collections including: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Hunter Museum and The Detroit Institute of Art and The Kempner Museum. Dancy retired in 2018 as Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of Connecticut.

     

    Dancy has exhibited nationally and internationally at museums and institutions such as The Fuller Museum, The Housatonic Museum, The Mattatuck Museum, The College of Saint Rose, The University of Rhode Island, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, The Spencer Museum, The Mead Art Museum, SACI Gallery, Florence, Italy, The US Embassy in Paris, and The DeCordova Museum. Her work is included in the collections of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Montgomery Museum of Art, The Spencer Museum of Art, The Hunter Museum of Art, Vanderbilt University, Grinnell College, Oberlin College Museum of Art, Davidson Art Center, The Detroit Museum of Art, Wesleyan, Davidson Art Center, SACI Gallery, Florence, Italy, Wesleyan University, The Bellagio Hotel, and The United States Embassy in Cameroon among others. In 2018 Dancy was included in the exhibition Magnetic Fields, organized by the Kemper Museum and traveled as well to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

  • Melissa Messina

    Melissa Messina

    Melissa Messina is an Independent Curator, Curatorial Advisor, and Curator of the Mildred Thompson Estate. For over 15 years, her exhibitions, site-responsive projects, and public programs have been presented in cultural institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad. She was recently the co-curator of “Mildred Thompson, The Atlanta Years, 1986-2003” at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA (2019), and “Mildred Thompson: Against the Grain,” at the New Orleans Museum of Art, LA (2018). In 2017, Messina co-curated “Magnetic Fields, Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” an intergenerational exhibition celebrating abstraction by 21 Black female artists – including Deborah Dancy – that toured from Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. She was formerly the Interim Executive Director and Senior Curator of the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; the National Program Director for ArtTable, NY; and a founding staff member and then guest curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Her research on Black female abstract practitioners has been funded by Creative Time | Warhol Foundation, the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory University, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.

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