Periods Of Art

Rita Deanin Abbey


Periods of Art

Childhood: Passaic, New Jersey. Abbey drew, painted, and made small sculptures. She worked realistically from still lifes, newspaper photos, and posters of World War II. She started to work with oil on canvas, tempera, charcoal, graphite, colored pencils, wax crayons on paper, carved soap and modeled clay.

High School: Passaic, New Jersey. She traveled through the Southwest to California in 1946. Abbey studied sculpture and figure drawing in New York, NY, under Naum Los at the French Institute. Worked from plaster head casts, draped and nude models, with plasticine, charcoal, and Conte crayon. Admired Rodin, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Vermeer.

Goddard College: Plainfield, Vermont. Abbey became aware of expressive directions in art. An informal introduction to modern art and art history. Interest in Oriental art history, Cezanne, Impressionism, and Herbert Read. Worked from models, landscapes, and still lifes and copied reproductions by Van Gogh, Braque, Picasso, and Rouault. Utilized oil on canvas, charcoal, Conte crayon, and ink on paper.

Abbey started to carve wood head sculptures and salt blocks. She studied with George Fuller and Al Mullen, who talked about Hans Hofmann.

Art Students League: Woodstock, New York. Attempted to abstract form. Her paintings of the figure became looser and more painterly. She worked with oil on canvas, charcoal, and ink on paper. Studied with Sigmund Menkes; read Robert Henri; met Doris Lee, Arnold Blanch, and James Forsberg (who encouraged study with Hofmann).

University of New Mexico: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her first formal study of art history. She was interested in Picasso, primitive art, German Expressionism, Renaissance art, and aesthetics. Abbey became aware of Abstract Expressionism. In addition to painting and drawing, she studied printmaking (lithography, etching, monotype, and engraving), ceramics, jewelry, and sculpture. She drew from the nude model, leaning toward a more abstract and non-objective use of form and space.

Abbey danced with Elizabeth Waters' modern dance group and utilized movement as a strong compositional component. She worked with oil ink, oil pastel, oil on canvas and cardboard, sandstone, wood, re-rod, and scrap metal. Abbey studied with Lez Haas, Randall Davey, Kenneth Adams, John Tatschl, Pat Julio, John Poore, Edwin Todd, Bainbridge Bunting, Raymond Jonson. Knew Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Mallary, Elaine de Kooning, Connie Fox, Paul Harris, Malcolm Brown, Rachel Brown, Joan Oppenheimer, Jack Garver, William Howard, Charles Littler, Bill McGee, Richard Hartwick, Herb Goldman, and Al Sarvis.

Oil Ink on Paper Series, Albuquerque, non-objective compositions with oil ink on paper.

M.A. Thesis Exhibition, Harwood Foundation, Taos, New Mexico. University of New Mexico Master's Degree painting thesis constituted the first individual exhibition. Non-objective compositions using oil on canvas and oil ink on paper.

Still Life Series 1953-56. Still lifes in oil pastel on paper.

Summers 1952 & 1954
Hans Hofmann School of Fine Art: Provincetown, Massachusetts. Under Hans Hofmann, she analyzed architectonic aspects of the picture plane and became more aware of color and essential spatial relationships. Worked with non-objective compositions and abstractions from nude models, landscapes, and still lifes in oil on canvas, oil pastels, graphite, and vine charcoal on paper. Met Wolf Kahn, Alan Kaprow, Myron Stout, and Paul Burlin. Met Jan Muller at the Hofmann School in New York, NY.

Arches, Sunset Crater, Casa Grande National Monuments: Arches National Monument Series. Worked out-of-doors and stored her canvases, art supplies, and paintings in a horse trailer. Studied geology, plants, reptiles, and other desert wildlife. Utilized non-objective compositions and abstracted landscapes with oil on canvas, oil pastel, and graphite on paper.

Taos, NM: Taos Series. Worked on non-objective compositions, abstracted landscapes, figures in landscapes, and still lifes with oil on canvas, oil pastel, graphite, and ink on paper. Met Louis Ribak, Bea Mandelman, Emil Bisttram, Andrew Dasburg, Stanley William Hayter, Frank Lobdell, and Ernest Blumenschein.

Hoboken, NJ: Early Figurative Series. Rented a store in Hoboken to use as a studio and teach classes. Worked with imaginative figures in landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and non-objective compositions with oil on can­vas, oil pastel, ink, graphite, and charcoal on paper. Abbey has a productive period for figurative wood sculptures. She knew Carl Methfessel.

Las Vegas, Nevada.

She used acrylic paint for the first time in her Early Figurative Series. It included figures and landscapes. She also worked in other media such as oil on canvas, graphite, ink, and oil pastel on paper.

Black Art Series, 1967-69. Non-objective relief structures and paintings executed with the color black on paper and canvas, utilizing plexiglass, polyurethane foam, fiberglass, polyester resin, oil and acrylic paint, wood, and metal armatures and grounds.

She worked with concepts of light and color and constructed light boxes, and formed sculptures using plexiglass, fluorescent and incandescent light sources.

Her first commission for an architectural site was for the sanctuary at Temple Beth Sholom, Las Vegas, Nevada. She built a 20 ft. x 40 ft. resin and fiberglass back-lit translucent mural, Wall of Creation 1970-71, using resin dyes, polyester resin, fiberglass, plywood, and marlite molds.

Rivertrip Series, 1971-77. Executed paintings and drawings in watercolor, oil pastel, and ink on paper with an accompanying manuscript of narrative verse based on a raft trip on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, Utah.

Drawings From the Model, 1971-83. Drawings on paper, single and group figure compositions in oil, pastel, graphite, and Conte crayons.

Figure Series, 1971-74. Imaginative individual and group compositions of female nudes in acrylic on canvas with sand and sawdust.

She commenced relief sculpture And God Created Woman in 1971 in Philippine mahogany. Carved seven female figures with a concern for positive and negative space and lyrical movement.

Commission for a bronze memorial bust of Flora Dungan for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Humanities Building; commenced 1973, installed 1974.

She installed a 10 ft. x 30 ft. acrylic on canvas mural for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Judy Bayley Theater lobby in 1974.  Used color and lyrical forms expressive of movement in dance and nature.

She researched holography in the physics department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Abbey taught an interdisciplinary course with Lon Spight on physics for artists in 1973 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Texture Series, 1975-77. Reliefs on canvas. She worked with the palette knife application of textural materials focusing on erosion and other geological processes. Materials included acrylic paint, sand, sawdust, and polymer gloss medium on canvas.

She executed a 10 ft. x 20 ft. plexiglass relief mural for an indoor pool at a private residence based on wave movements of water and underwater life.

For the State of Nevada 1976 Bicentennial Commission, Abbey executed a 6 ft. x 6 ft. plexiglass relief mural based on the theme of plants' growth and healing power. Installed in the medical education building of the University Medical Center, Las Vegas, Nevada.

She was commissioned for three non-objective resin light boxes for a private residence in Las Vegas, Nevada, incorporating polyester resin, resin dyes, and fiberglass.

Abbey completed Rivertrip Series and manuscript. Published in 1977, Northland Press, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Abbey studied traditional woodblock printing and Sumi-e painting in Japan in 1977. Produced works based on landscape and plant growth.

Paintings on Paper Series, 1977-78, Acrylic non-objective painting.

Desert Space Series 1977-79. She based her acrylic paintings on canvas on an intuitive image evolution.

She started Art and Geology: Expressive Aspects of the Desert in 1977. It concerns visual perception, common approaches and sensibilities of the artist and scientist, coincidental patterns and forms from artistic and natural processes.

She completed a wood relief sculpture, And God Created Woman, 1979.

From Desert to Bible Vistas Series, 1979-87. Acrylic on canvas, based on experiences derived from living in the deserts of Israel and the Southwest. She applied layered washes and glazes.

Aleph Beth Series, 1980-83. Collages on canvas of printed letters with graphite, Conte crayon, and acrylic paint juxtaposed with irregular shapes of cut and torn opaque dyed and coated papers.

She taught an interdisciplinary course with Bill Fiero and John Wilbanks on art and geology in 1982 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Abbey designed and constructed two structo-lite fireplaces for Gan Or (Garden Light), a solar home and studio, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1982-83. Materials included re-rod, metal lath, and stucco-lite (a lightweight compound similar to plaster).

Abbey taught an interdisciplinary course with Wes Niles on art and botany in 1983 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Gan Or Series: The Architectural Experience, 1984-86. Drawings on paper of the construction of Gan Or, the site, and fireplaces. Used pencils, oil pastels, oil sticks, and graphite.

A bronze cast of And God Created Woman, from the Philippine mahogany relief 1984, was installed at Gan Or in 1985.

Abbey completed From Desert to Bible Vistas Series, 1987.

Computer Drawings, 1984-87. Experimented with non-objective compositions utilizing the Macintosh MacPaint program as a drawing tool.

Porcelain Enamel Fired on Steel Series, 1984-88. Experimented with liquid enamels. Emphasized the force, energy, and turbulence of white water and other forms in nature. Liquid porcelain enamel, sprayed, painted, and fired on 16-gauge steel panels and 22-gauge cut hammered steel. Used sgraffito/grisaille techniques.

Completing the Art and Geology, Expressive Aspects of the Desert manuscript, co­ authored with G. William Fiero. Published by Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, Utah, 1986.

Albuquerque Revisited: Monotypes on Paper, 1987. Non-objective compositions are executed in oil ink monotypes.

Lithographs 1987-88. Non-objective compositions are executed in black and white and four-color lithographs.

From 1988–1990, Abbey fabricated Northwind, a steel sculpture (17 ft. x 27 ft. 5 in. x 25 ft. 10 in., 7 tons), installed in Las Vegas, NV. In 1993; Abbey constructed Spirit Tower, a cor-ten steel sculpture (20 ft., 11 tons), commissioned by the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center. While working on steel sculptures, she continued to paint, exploring large canvases in the Courtyard Garden Series.

She was exploring the arrangements of space, forms, and sculptures that have their roots in nature. Abbey produced a bronze relief series called Primal Earth and Features of the Land. She created doors and gates for the museum from 1994-2005 and to 2018. In 1995, Abbey completed a series of cast bronze sculptures at Shidoni Foundry, Tesuque, New Mexico. In 1996, she diversified with plexiglass relief murals containing colorful, curvilinear planes in a hard-edge style. The highly reflective forms play against the sandblasted surfaces, readdressing the issues of light absorption and reflection.

Inspired by the bristlecone pines in the mountains near Las Vegas, Abbey engraved lithographic film to create a hand-printed limited-edition book called In Praise of Bristlecone Pines.

In 1998, Abbey completed the commissioned Isaiah Stained-Glass Windows in 2000, sixteen 10 ft. x 2 ft. stained-glass windows for the main sanctuary of Temple Beth Sholom, Las Vegas, NV. Also in 2000, she completed Holocaust, a stainless-steel sculpture (14 ft. 3 in., 4.5 tons), installed in Las Vegas, NV.

The 1995-2006 art series called All Media Sculptures has Abbey fabricating a bronze fountain, carving wood, and mahogany reliefs, which led to bronze reliefs, cast, and fabrication.

From 1995-2005 she worked on a series of figure sculptures out of classic clay and bronze. Still exploring art with her computer, in 2005, she completed a series of colorful computer art paintings. The series entitled Explorations shows her love of color, texture, and form. In this series, her observations and need for discovery keep her from repeating what no longer seems challenging.

From 2000 to 2005, she worked with handmade rag paper for a series of drawings and paintings called Congeries and Earth Movements.

In 2003 her bronze sculpture, Ner Tamid, was installed in Temple Adat Ami, Las Vegas, NV. Snakewash, a cor-ten steel ground sculpture (62 ft.), was completed in November 2003.

Abbey fabricated steel sculptures and cast small and large bronzes from 2004. In 2006 she completed and installed Guardian of All Directions, a stainless-steel sculpture (14 ft., 1.5 tons). Hidden Pass, a 2-inch steel plate sculpture (16 x 28 ft. 8 in. x 13 ft., 22 tons), was installed in 2010. Balanced Arc, an outdoor bronze sculpture (8 ft. 8 in. x 9 ft. x 7 ft. 4 in., 1600 lbs.), completed in 2012, was installed in April 2013.

The last of her large canvases show her deeply felt rhythms, motion, and order in nature.

Her sketchbooks span her entire life and show her eye for the details in nature. After exploring a wildlife refuge near her home, she returned to drawing and painting landscapes on paper. Her final publication, Seeds Yet Ever Secret, showcases her poetry, drawings, and paintings from the Spring Mountains and a Wildlife Refuge trail. Her work ethic was inexhaustible; her works show her brilliance and her eagerness to challenge herself and keep exploring.

Abbey worked closely with the architects and builders to design her museum.