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Jay DeFeo: The Spiritual Rose


Jay DeFeo’s most famous work of art, The Rose, which she created over an eight-year period from the years 1958 to 1966, became a piece that elicited a different response from its audience every time it was shown. Analyzing different facets about the mysterious nature surrounding this piece, as well as the way in which DeFeo interacted with pieces prior to its creation, I argue that The Rose went through several crucial periods and whether it was the reaction of DeFeo, another artist, or a viewer, this piece is associated to a peculiar religiosity. By religiosity, I mean the traits that describe a viewer who reacts to a piece – in this case, the reaction to being in the presence of The Rose -- with the effects of a spiritual sensation and who describe the piece in the form of a mystical experience. Through analysis of Jay DeFeo's atheistic upbringing, one can conclude that The Rose was not created with a religious idea in mind. However, it is important to note that it tends to be described in a spiritual context though it does not depict religious iconography on its surface. The artistic community that surrounded The Rose helps one understand the reactions and responses that its audiences have had, as well as the way it was valued by DeFeo herself. Due to the spiritual characteristics of her works, the deep connection that she had to her paintings, the mysterious nature of this grand piece, and reactions after its restoration, all confirm the spirituality attached to The Rose. Through this religious lens, The Rose can be broken up into separate sections of its life: conception, creation, life, death, and resurrection, ultimately leading to its association to spiritual connotations.

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