Biographical / Historical
Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) lived and worked in Northern California where she was a prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene as a painter in the progressive art community. She identified her artistic style as expressionist and symbolist.
DeFeo was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, and was three years old when her family moved to the Bay Area. She attended the University of California Berkeley and earned an Associate's Degree in 1948, a B.A. in 1950 and a M.A. in Fine Arts in 1951. After earning the M.A. she took 18 months to travel in France, Spain, northern Africa, and Italy. She spent 6 months in Florence where she painted and produced her first important body of work. DeFeo returned to San Francisco at the end of her trip.
DeFeo married fellow artist Wally Hedrick in 1954. They settled in a large Victorian flat at 2322 Fillmore Street and actively participated in Beat counter culture. DeFeo and Hedrick counted many artists among their friends and colleagues, including musicians, painters, poets, and photographers. They threw large parties with hundreds of guests. DeFeo produced a range of works during her four-decade long career. She began working on her most celebrated and massive painting, The Rose, in the Fillmore flat.
In the mid-1960s, DeFeo began teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. She and Wally Hedrick divorced in 1969, and she moved to Larkspur in Marin County to regroup from personal set-backs and the draining experience of working on The Rose. In 1980 she joined the art faculty at Mills College. She maintained personal and professional correspondences with many people, and her papers include letters about conservation efforts for The Rose.