Human Interest
Audio Guide Playlist

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.

Dana Miller: This is a photocollage that involves kind of two layers of photography.
Narrator: Curator Dana Miller.

Dana Miller: Jay DeFeo is an artist who is best known for a monumental painting called The Rose. And the foundation for this image, the background image that you see, is a photographic detail of this painting, The Rose. So it looks almost like a geologic formation, but that’s because the paint was so thick that it was layered with all of these crevices and cracks.

And on top of this photograph, she has collaged cut-out photographs of her teeth. Her own teeth. And she suffered from periodontal disease, and it was her belief that the gum disease was brought on by some of the chemicals, in particular lead, that was in the paint that she was using for The Rose.
So the loss of her teeth is very much associated with the creation of The Rose. So she’s taken these images of her teeth, which look almost like pearls or berries, and she’s nestled them by layering them, collaging them, on top of The Rose. So there’s a sense of loss, she’s lost her teeth. The Rose at the time that she made this painting was at the San Francisco Art Institute buried behind a layer of plaster, so a painting that she had spent almost a decade of her life working on nearly exclusively was also lost to her at that time. So I think there’s a sense of longing and wistfulness in the work.

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