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Jay DeFeo

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Jay DeFeo

American, (1929–1989)

Born in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1929, Jay DeFeo moved extensively between California and Colorado before settling down with her mother in San Jose, California at ten years old. DeFeo was first exposed to modern art by a high school art teacher who took her to local art museums to see the work of European avant-garde artists such as Picasso and Matisse. In 1946, DeFeo enrolled as an art student at the University of California, Berkeley, where she finished a BFA in 1950 and an MFA in 1951. Upon leaving Berkeley, DeFeo moved to San Francisco where she lived among local artists and poets, made and sold jewelry, and worked as an artist’s model at the California School of Fine Arts.

After traveling and teaching at multiple California art institutions, DeFeo settled as an art professor at Mills College. While working as a professor, DeFeo was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1988 and began focusing her work on her health problems before her death in 1989.

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