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The Ring around The Rose


From 1958 to 1966, the San Francisco artist Jay DeFeo (1929-89) worked on one artwork almost exclusively - a monumental oil-on-canvas painting titled The Rose. The painting's protracted production isolated DeFeo from the mainstream art world and encouraged contemporaries to cast her as Romanticism's lonely genius. However, during its creation, The Rose also served as an important matrix for collaboration among artists in DeFeo's bohemian community. Her neighbors - such as Wallace Berman (1926-76) and Bruce Conner (1933-2008) - appropriated the painting in their works, blurring the boundaries of individual authorship and blending production and reception into a single process of exchange. I argue that these simultaneously creative and social interactions opened up the autonomous artwork, cloistered studio, and the concept of the individualistic artist championed in Cold-War America to negotiate more complex relationships between the individual and the collective.

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