Public Program

In Dialogue: Through Jay DeFeo’s Lens

Leah Levy, Executive Director of the Jay DeFeo Foundation, joins Natalie Dupêcher, Assistant Curator of Modern Art, for a conversation about the photo-based work of American artist Jay DeFeo (1929–1989). They discuss works by DeFeo on view in the Menil’s exhibition Photography and the Surreal Imagination and in the Menil’s permanent collection. Levy and Dupêcher also consider how the artist adopted and transformed Surrealist strategies throughout her boldly imaginative career.

Jay DeFeo was a pivotal figure in the California Bay Area arts community from the mid-1950s until her death in 1989. By experimenting with unorthodox techniques and materials and pushing the boundaries of traditional media, she created a widely varied, poetic body of work that explored abstraction, memory, and totemic personal objects, evading easy categorization. In 2013, her work was the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

The program will livestream directly on this page and on the Menil’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, August 19, at 6 p.m. CDT. No login or RSVP is required.

You are invited to submit your questions for the speakers in advance and during the program to programs@menil.org.

About the speakers:

Leah Levy has served as a trustee of The Jay DeFeo Foundation since its inception in 1991 and is currently Executive Director. She has organized exhibitions as an independent art curator and is the author of several books and numerous catalogue essays. From 1974 to 1983 she owned and directed the Leah Levy Gallery in San Francisco. She was founding curator of Capp Street Project, an artist-in-residency program for site-specific installations. She worked with Jay DeFeo as a curatorial consultant from 1985 until the artist’s death in 1989. She also serves on the boards of the Artists’ Legacy Foundation and the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

Natalie Dupêcher is the Assistant Curator of Modern Art at the Menil Collection, where she most recently curated Photography and the Surreal Imagination, which opened on February 5, 2020. This exhibition brings together over 60 photo-based works to explore the Surrealist movement and its long afterlife in postwar and contemporary art practices, and was recently reviewed in the Journal of Surrealism and the Americas. She is completing her doctoral studies at Princeton University and specializes in Surrealism and the historical avant-garde.

About the series:

In Dialogue is the Menil Collection’s series of live, online conversations. Menil curators are joined by notable scholars, artists, and art professionals for engaging discussions about the museum’s collection, current exhibitions, and ideas shaping contemporary discourses about art.

All programs are free and open to everyone.