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Jay DeFeo

The Eyes

1958

Not on view

Artist

Jay DeFeo (1929-1989)

Title

The Eyes

Date

1958

Medium

Graphite pencil on paper

Dimensions

Sheet (Sight): 42 × 84 3/4 in. (106.7 × 215.3 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the Lannan Foundation

Accession number

96.242.3

Object Label

One of several works in which Jay DeFeo addresses the act of seeing, either through title or subject matter, The Eyes was inspired by a photograph of the artist. DeFeo later spoke of The Eyes as having “something of a prophetic meaning,” a precursor to her envisioning her signature work, The Rose (1958-66). Apart from personal references, DeFeo's ambitious sense of scale, along with the numerous vertical striations and erasures across the disembodied eyes, make this image of a familiar subject arresting and unexpected. DeFeo inscribed the back of this drawing with a stanza from a poem by Beat poet Philip Lamantia: “Tell him I have eyes only for Heaven as I look to you Queen Mirror of the Heavenly Court.”

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