May 27, 2024


Go Crack A Art

The enduring art of Lois Dodd

Unstoppable: The Enduring Art of Lois Dodd


Lois Dodd demonstrates that art-producing isn’t a job or an occupation, it is a way of lifestyle

by Cynthia Shut

Most people seem forward to retirement, usually setting up around age 65, but artists generally continue on to work, some-occasions for a long time extended, even up until their ultimate several hours. Examples abound all over artwork heritage of creatives who have been actively evolving—inventing new approaches and checking out new media—in their elder decades, even as their health declined. For numerous individuals, the act of building artwork is restorative, providing a font of energy that can be renewed working day by working day, year following yr, enabling them to keep their efficiency as they age.

When the New Jersey-born modernist painter Lois Dodd was requested about her “practice,” she bristled at the term. “Doctors and legal professionals have a ‘practice,’ artists have a lifetime,” she claimed. This conversation occurred in the course of an on the internet job interview and discussion with Dodd and artist Eric Aho, in conjunction with the 2020 exhibition “Figuration By no means Died: New York Painterly Portray 1950–1970,” at Vermont’s Brattleboro Museum (see a movie of the job interview at It was a scarce instant interrupting the ordinarily calm demeanor of the 95-calendar year-outdated Dodd, who sat patiently answering myriad inquiries from the participating audience customers. She was open, considerate, and engaged, just as she was during her job interview for this write-up, inspite of the pressure of making ready for her once-a-year summertime transition to Maine.

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


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

At a younger age, Dodd lost her mother to cancer and, shortly after, her father, a merchant maritime, died at sea. Fortuitously, her more mature sister was presently performing as head-of-house during the father’s voyages, and as these kinds of, she was in a position to preserve some perception of loved ones stability and continuity. The artist attended higher school in Montclair, N.J., which she recalls owning “a lovely art area with a skylight.” She realized from her artwork instructor that she could pursue her innovative pursuits, tuition free, at the Cooper Union, in Manhattan’s East Village. Like her near pal and colleague, Mel Leipzig, Dodd acquired her craft at this institution. It was also at Cooper that she met her sculptor spouse, Bill King (1925–2015).

Dodd was an lively member of the avant-garde Tenth Road artwork scene, a free-knit coalition of artist-run galleries functioning with lower budgets and presenting a 1950s–60s alternative to the higher-finish, much more doctrinaire gallery technique. 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 College till her retirement in 1992.

“I can not invent anything. I want to notice from daily life.”


Dodd’s initial portray to enter a museum assortment was The See By means of Elliot’s Shack Hunting South (1971), acquired by New York City’s Museum of Present day Art. With her standard persistence and equanimity, she comments, “If you wait around prolonged plenty of, the environment comes to you.”

These times, Dodd’s paintings of scenes from her condominium in New York City’s Reduce East Side and from her family property in Blairstown, N.J., close to the Delaware Water Hole, as effectively as views of the woods and gardens about her summer months retreat in Maine, are a great deal in demand from customers. She’s currently rep-resented by the prestigious Alexandre Gallery, in Manhattan, and has been included in a lot of solo and team exhibitions due to the fact the 1950s, but it was not until 2013, when Dodd was 85, that she was given her initial museum retrospective, titled “Catching the Mild,” at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, in Kansas Town.

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 each day.” There is a naturalness, an unforced excellent in all the artist’s work. “I don’t want to established things up,” she claims. As a consequence, her paintings really feel inevitable—Zen-like. They just are. The matter issue of her function is broad, but a restricted tonal color palette is a signature element managing by the artist’s oeuvre.

For her early perform, Dodd would make drawings on website and then return to the studio to paint the compositions on a much larger scale, working with oil on linen canvas. “I experimented with acrylic,” suggests Dodd, “but it felt like chewing gum.”

It took the artist some time to adapt to direct portray en plein air without having preliminary drawing. She uncovered operating on gessoed Masonite panels, no larger than 20 inches on the longest side, allowed her to commence and finish a painting in just one outing. “It has to be 1 session,” she says. “You start and hold likely right until you end.” 

A college student introduced Dodd to aluminum flashing, a roofing construction materials, as a painting surface. Dodd, who operates on your own and has no studio assistant, suggests, “I like to do all the chores—gessoing and sanding the aluminum surface—myself.” Sunflower Petal in Grass and Night time Streetlight, Rockgarden Inn, both equally painted on aluminum flashing, are very little gems.

Night time Sky Loft
(1973 oil on linen, 66×54)
Get rid of Window
(2014 oil on linen, 66×48)
Nude Leaning Back Blue Sky
(2020 oil on aluminum flashing, 7×5)

In addition to switching her approach and painting surface area about the yrs, Dodd produced her fashion and compositional tactic. Her 1962 portray Pond has a unfastened, open-air, gestural quality that appears to be nearer in style to the work of Willem de Kooning (1904–97) than to Dodd’s much more specifically observational, figurative perform that adopted. Evening Sky Loft and Get rid of Window are big oil paintings—both of which use a window as the key structural element—demonstrate extremely unique compositional methods.

Just one attribute that stays constant in her perform, however, is an egalitarian technique to her matter make any difference. In a portray by Dodd, a one piece of laundry hanging on a line retains as considerably importance as a single of her seldom current human figures. Blue Towel is animated by a slight breeze, when in Nude Leaning Back – Blue Sky, the figure is caught motionless, wedged between the top rated and base edge of the frame. Dodd also tends to shut in on her focal stage. Landscapes, from this artist’s point of view, are not grand vistas stretching into significantly horizons—and her uniform tonal quality obliterates the continuous improvements of sunlight and shadow, producing the graphic timeless.

In basic, Dodd’s paintings are like haiku or meditations. They radiate a peaceful perception of quiet—a put of retreat, which we can all use a tiny extra of in our lives.