Artist Spotlight: Deborah Dancy

Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today places abstract works by multiple generations of black women artists in context with one another—and within the larger history of abstract art—for the first time, revealing the artists’ role as under-recognized leaders in abstraction.

Winter into Spring 2 and Winter into Spring 4 (2015) 

By: Deborah Dancy (b. 1949, Bessemer, Alabama)

Created during the seemingly interminable Connecticut winter of 2015, Winter into Spring 2 (and its companion piece, Winter into Spring 4) echoes Deborah Dancy’s desire to see spring colors. Heavy brushstrokes imbue the work with a sense of restlessness and anxiety as Dancy, an artist who paints “color, surprise, absurdity, and encounters with the self,” impatiently waits for the ice of winter to thaw. While a solitary flourish of pink in Winter into Spring 4 indicates the eventual oncoming of spring, the painting remains blanketed in streaks of gray, black, and blue—not unlike an early blossom smothered by an unseasonably late snowfall.

The painting’s gestural brushstrokes—what Dancy calls “tangential entanglements” and “linear demarcations”—are characteristic of her engaging, disruptive style. The dissonance in the intersecting shapes is also characteristic of Dancy’s oeuvre. Her artwork shows that “everyday moments, meanderings, intentional and accidental observations and notations, are best when the beautiful and the disconcerting are combined.”

Dancy also embraces the natural ambiguity of abstraction. Although her works are inspired by her own emotions and experiences, they also allow viewers to contemplate their own relationships to her work. Dancy says, “I make abstract work because I am interested in its ability to operate in a realm in which beauty and tension simultaneously exist without explanation or narrative.” Dancy is “an artist who examines and mines abstraction’s potential to move across mediums and materials as it explores [subtlety] and confrontation.”

Visit the museum and explore Magnetic Fields, on view through January 21, 2018. Learn more through the Magnetic Fields Mobile Guide.

—Ilayda Orankoy is the 2017 fall publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.