A Finding Aid to the Helen DeMott Papers, 1896-1997, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.demohele
Creators:
DeMott, Helen, 1920-1997
Dates:
1896-1997
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
7.9 linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter Helen DeMott measure 7.9 linear feet and date from 1896-1997. DeMott's painting career from 1940-1996 is documented through her numerous sketchbooks and original artwork. Also found is biographical material, correspondence, writings and poems, scrapbooks, printed material, photographic material, audio and video recordings, and scattered material from collagist Ray Johnson.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of painter Helen DeMott measure 7.9 linear feet and date from 1896-1997. DeMott's painting career from 1940-1996 is documented through her numerous sketchbooks and original artwork. Also found is biographical material, correspondence, writings and poems, scrapbooks, printed material, photographic material, audio and video recordings, and scattered material from collagist Ray Johnson.
The scattered biographical material contains official documents, DeMott's resume, circulars and receipts from the Art School of the National Academy of Design, and two obituaries. Correspondence includes letters from publishers regarding DeMott's book proposal "Geography into Landscape," correspondence with universities and scientific institutions regarding her Wave series, and personal correspondence including letters from photographer, filmmaker, and painter Rudy Burckhardt, writer Alfred Chester, painter Clifford Wright, and collagist Edith Schloss.
The bulk of the writings is DeMott's poetry, as well as some artist's statements, loose notes, a speech, travel diaries, and handwritten, typed, and edited manuscripts, including a typed manuscript of "Geography into Landscape." Writings by others include poetry by Celia Bland, Miriam Finkelstein, and Marie Ponsot. Scrapbooks document DeMott's research and artwork related to waves and includes clippings, photographs of artwork, sketches and notations, and typed notes on painting waves. Printed material includes magazine and newspaper articles about Helen DeMott and various other artists, and many articles related to water waves.
Photographic material includes black and white photographs of DeMott's artwork and personal photographs. Of interest is a 1943 photograph of a group at the Art Students League which includes Ester Rolick, Edith Schloss, Max Eastman, and Helen DeMott. Also found are slides and transparencies of artwork and slides for lectures on waves. Audiovisual Recordings include one reel-to-reel tape and five videotapes, some related to DeMott's study of waves.
There is one folder of material from collagist Ray Johnson containing scattered letters and mail art, exhibition fliers, and collages. Measuring 4.2 linear feet, the bulk of DeMott's papers are sketchbooks and original artwork spanning her artistic career. There are numerous loose sketches, notes, sketchbooks, holiday cards, watercolors, and oversized drawings in pencil, ink, and oil pastels, much of which is related to waves. Original artwork by others includes Esther Rolick and Edith Schloss.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 9 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1911-1997 (Boxes 1, 9; 7 folders)
Series 2: Letters and Correspondence, 1896, 1930-1995 (Boxes 1-2; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1950-circa 1996 (Boxes 2-3; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1967-1989 (Box 3; 2 folders)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1961-1996 (Boxes 3, 9; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographic Material, circa 1920s-1996 (Boxes 3-4, 9; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Audiovisual Recordings, 1975, 1978, undated (Box 4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Ray Johnson, 1947, 1963, undated (Box 4; 1 folder)
Series 9: Artwork, 1941-1996 (Boxes 4-9, OV 10-13; 4.2 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Helen DeMott (1920-1997) was a New York City based painter and poet and well-known East Village community activist.
In the 1940s, DeMott attended the National Academy of Design and Art Students League. In the late 1960s, DeMott began focusing her work on the scientific study of waves, specifically the structure of water wave surfaces, a theme that remained in her work for the rest of her career. In 1974-1975, DeMott completed two building murals of water wave structures in New York City: Wave Spill, located at 155 First Avenue and 10th Street; and River Wave, at 509 Amsterdam Avenue. She had a solo exhibition at the Green Mountain Gallery in 1969, and exhibited at the ground-breaking alternative space, 112 Workshop/112 Greene Street in 1979. DeMott was received a number of grants and awards throughout her career including National Community Arts Competition winner in 1974, a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (CAPS) in 1976, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1978, and a Gottleib Foundation grant in 1983. She passed away in 1997.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
Videotapes in the collection were digitized in September 2009 and are available upon request from the Archives of American Art.
Processing Information
In 2003, the collection was accessioned and books were cataloged and removed. The papers were processed to a preliminary level and described by Justin Brancato in September 2006. In November 2009, the collection was minimally processed and further described by Sarah Haug.
Author
Justin Brancato and Sarah Haug
Provenance
The Helen DeMott papers were a bequest to the Archives of American Art in 2003 by James Goldiner, executive for the estate of Helen DeMott.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Helen DeMott papers, 1896-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Helen DeMott papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Notes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Poems Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Travel diaries Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bland, Celia Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chester, Alfred, 1928-1971 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burkhardt, Rudy Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eastman, Max, 1883-1969 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Finkelstein, Miriam Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) -- Photographs Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Johnson, Ray, 1927- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ponsot, Marie Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rolick, Esther G., b. 1922 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Schloss, Edith, 1919- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wright, Clifford, 1919- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/