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I am an Abstract Expressionist

“Fire” – 1961, oil paint on canvas, by Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)

In the past I have usually called myself a contemporary abstract artist. Well, no more. After spending several hours in the Denver Art Museum recently, I will now describe myself as an Abstract Expressionist.

The show I’m referring to is called “Women of Abstract Expressionism” and features 12 female artists of the early to mid-20th century: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher.

These women are part of the first American-grown art movement to gain global recognition. In fact, this movement gained such popularity that by the mid 1900s New York City became the international art center, favored over Paris.

This first fully American movement emphasized individual expression and the freedom to experiment with materials and processes. There was evidence of loose brushwork and focus on the overall composition of the piece. Emphasis was on the surface, rather than depth. Overall a grand sense of scale prevailed. The experiment with process and materials freed the artist from conventions and expectations known of that era.

This show is a delight to me on many fronts. The obvious ones are the scale of the work and the colors! Another is the message of what kept these artists going and their mission. I feel a kindred spirit to them all. Working in “the abstract” is a calling and a journey. I felt at home with the incredible body of work in the museum. It has renewed the path ahead of me.