DOROTHY DEHNER, 1901-1994
Born in Cleveland in 1901, Dehner created works in numerous media for decades. Having moved to Bolton Landing in 1940, much of Dehner’s career was spent an hour away from Saratoga Arts. All work shown by Dorothy Dehner is made possible by a generous loan from the Tang Teaching Museum. All of Dehner's work on view at Saratoga Arts is not for sale.
Image courtesy of Dorothy Dehner Foundation
“An artist from a young age, Dorothy Dehner has expressed herself through a variety of mediums: dance, drawing, painting, etching, and most famously, sculpture. Dehner was inspired to focus on the visual arts after a trip to Europe in 1925 which led to her subsequent enrollment in the Art Students League in New York City. It was there she met fellow student David Smith, and within a year they were married. Their marriage ushered in an oppressive period in Dehner’s life in which she felt she did not have full creative control over her art. Subjected to Smith’s outbursts of violence and the belittlement of her work, she eventually separated from him in 1950. The 1950s ushered in a new period in Dehner’s work in which her creativity, previously suppressed, was able to fully flourish as she explored new mediums and styles.
Dehner’s works from the 1950s represent a foundational period, as she shifted from realism to the abstract sculptures for which she would become most known. Many of the forms seen in these etchings and engravings reappear in Dehner’s sculptural work, even years later. In works like The Maiden Aunts, or Bird-machine II, we see her interest in sculpture developing as she pushes the boundary of what is possible in two dimensions. Using shading and perspectival tricks, she forms extrusions, voids, and enclosures, creating a pseudo-three-dimensional space on the page. These shapes are tactile, with heavy intersecting lines and contrasting use of light and dark. They exude an intense energy that seems to shoot out in sharp protrusions that crisscross the page and create layers of movement. Living organisms appear filtered through a machine aesthetic, abstracting them into geometric shapes and lines. The prints and paintings you see here are a testament to Dorothy Dehner’s lifelong commitment to art and to her freedom as an artist and individual.”
-Theo Carol, Skidmore College class of 2023
Saratoga Arts' programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.