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Lois Dodd: Catching the Light

January 17 through April 7, 2013


Lois Dodd is best known for her works in which she paints the world around her -- from her apartment windows in New York City to the woods and gardens of Maine and New Jersey. The exhibition Lois Dodd: Catching the Light is the first career retrospective for the painter and features more than 50 paintings from six decades. The exhibition will be on view January 17 through April 7, 2013, at the Portland Museum of Art.

Born in 1927 in Montclair, New Jersey, Dodd first moved to New York as a student at the Cooper Union. She studied there from 1945 to 1948, a time when New York emerged as the postwar art capital of the world and Abstract Expressionism flourished. In 1952, she was the only female co-founder of the Tanager Gallery, along with artists Philip Pearlstein and Charles Cajori, among others. Rather than turn to abstraction, minimalism, or Pop, Dodd has remained faithful to painting her immediate surroundings throughout her career, whether it be a country landscape or an interior view of her apartment. (right: Lois Dodd, Self-Portrait in Green Window, 1971, oil on linen, 53 1/2 x 36 inches. Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Museum purchase with support from the Contemporary Art Fund, in memory of Bernice McIlhenny Wintersteen.)

Dodd was a key member of New York's postwar art scene and later taught at Brooklyn College for 25 years. She also found a second home in Maine and became associated with the Lincolnville artists, including Alex Katz and Neil Welliver, before moving to Midcoast Maine where she has lived and painted for several decades.

Dodd was part of the wave of New York modernists to explore the coast of Maine in the later half of the 20th-century. Like Fairfield Porter, Rackstraw Downes, Alex Katz, and Neil Welliver, Dodd started spending her summers in Maine, beginning in 1951. Attracted by the inexpensive but rambling old farmhouses, endless woods, stone quarries, and the bright sunshine, Dodd and her fellow artists sought both companionship and escape from the demands of city life. At one time, Dodd shared a house with Alex Katz who refers to Dodd's work as, "fresh, honest, direct" in the exhibition catalogue. To this day, Dodd can be found trekking through the fields and forests in her Maine environs with canvas and paint supplies in hand.

She often works en plein air, starting paintings on site in the woods or other location and finishing them in her studio. In her essay, exhibition curator Barbara O'Brien writes, "Her paintings are premised on the truth that she stood in this place, with the light casting shadows just so, the temperature of the air warm or cool, the sun warm against her face, protected by the brim of a straw hat; her fingers able to employ brush to linen against the wind of a New Jersey winter." At times, her observations are so direct that she uses the window to frame her compositions, as seen in the exhibition's View of Neighbors House in Winter.

Dodd often returns to the same location and views to explore at different times of day and times of year. Lois Dodd: Catching the Light includes views of a men's shelter outside her Lower East Side apartment that become studies of light, architecture, and the city. In Men's Shelter, April, 1968, one sees the verdant grass of spring with shadows cast by the surrounding architecture of the neighboring buildings, depicted through her flat blocks of color. Artist Will Barnet described Dodd's work by noting that, "she has this broad imagery and also this ability to do different subjects and give them what was important in that particular moment. She has an extraordinary body of feeling about the possibility of imagery that can be so different from each other, yet each a work of art, which is not easy to do." (left: Lois Dodd, View of Neighbors House in Winter, 1977-78, oil on linen, 66 x 36 inches. Commerce Bancshares Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.)

Dodd is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design, and a member of the board of governors for the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Among many honors, she recently was awarded the Benjamin West Clinedinist Memorial Medal in 2007 from the Artists' Fellowship, Inc. and Cooper Union's Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award for professional achievement in art in 2005. Her works can be found in museums including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and Portland Museum of Art, Maine, among others. Dodd currently resides in both New York and Maine.

The exhibition is curated by Barbara O'Brien, director and chief curator at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Jessica May, Curator of Contemporary and Modern Art, will install the exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art. A scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition Lois Dodd: Catching the Light includes essays by Alison Ferris, Barbara O'Brien, and John Yau, and 51 color plates and 26 illustrations. In the essays, Ferris, curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, focuses on Maine and its influences on the artist's work. O'Brien discusses the artist's environment and subjects. Yau, poet, art critic, curator, and professor at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, examines her work in New York. The catalogue also includes personal reflections on the artist by Will Barnet, Frances Barth, Charles Cajori, Wolf Kahn, Alex Katz, Leslie Land, Mel Leipzig, Carl Little, Norma Marin, Elizabeth O'Reilly, and Philip Pearlstein. The catalogue is available in the PMA Store.

This exhibition was organized by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Related Program: Lois Dodd in Conversation with Karen Wilkin, Wednesday, January 16, 2013. Free for members. Fee for non-members

This program featured artist Lois Dodd in conversation with art critic Karen Wilkin. Lois Dodd was a key member of New York's postwar art scene and part of the wave of New York modernists to explore the coast of Maine in the latter half of the 20th century. Dodd was in conversation with Karen Wilkin, a regular contributor to The New Criterion, Art in America, and the Wall Street Journal and Contributing Editor for Art for the Hudson Review. The two discussed the evolution of the art scene in New York and Maine, and the ways the two locations continue to inspire the artist.This program was made possible in part by the Beatrice Gilmore Fund for Museum Education.


(above: Lois Dodd, Men's Shelter, April, 1968, oil on linen, 47 1/2 x 39 1/4 inches. Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection. Museum Purchase made possible by a gift from the Kemper Foundations)

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