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(Helen H.) Lee Deffebach

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(Helen H.) Lee Deffebach
abstract expressionism
(Houston, Texas, 1928 - 2005, Salt Lake City, Utah)

Originally from Houston, Texas and later residing in Salt Lake City, Lee Deffebach was one of Utah's leading abstract painters. According to Utah Art, she was the "only female nonobjective artist in Utah during the early sixties" and she did Utah's first pop-art sculptures and paintings. Deffebach received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah in 1949 and studied in Florence on a Fulbright Fellowship. She worked with the New York modernists in the 1950s and 60s. She liked to paint with bright, basic colors on large canvases. Deffebach's paintings are incredibly expressive. Although largely nonrepresentational, the artist packed her works with feeling. Her "painted creations," Robert Olpin says, "have great strength as statements of personal mood." Rearview Mirror, painted in 1991, is an example of one of her later movements, "a journey into sensibility, into feeling" (Carma Wadley, Deseret News). On the oversized canvas, dark colors bleed and run, and thick, wide, short brushstrokes move right and curve down. Deffebach's oranges, dark reds, greens, blues, and off-whites express a turbulent melancholy and although the thick brushstrokes portray life, energy, and movement, the painting is full of sad emotion. Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum of Art says that Rearview Mirror was one of Deffebach's greatest late period abstract expressionist piece. He adds," Rearview Mirror is fresh and alive even though painted long after its foundation school had passed. The painting's scale, broadness, and passionate spontaneity defy the myth that artists begin to pot boil in their mature periods." Deffebach's Rearview Mirror is a beautiful example of how abstract works can depict the essence of humanity. "Art," said the artist, "is one way of self-expression. . . . Coming to terms with life is an art, being content is an art." Lee's abstract works are the reflections of her own feelings, the inner workings of her soul. During the 1960s Deffebach experimented with pop art, creating small assemblages of commonplace items, such as pop cans and coffee cups. She created toy-like sculptures of cars and trucks and painted soda bottles, much as Andy Warhol did during the same era. Later she turned to abstract expressionism and color-field painting. Deffebach's works continue to be exhibited throughout Utah. Her work can be seen adorning the walls of hotels and major galleries and museums of the Salt Lake City area. One of the most talented of Utah artists, she had a gift for the abstract portrayal of beauty. From Swanson, Olpin, and Seifrit, Utah Art; Wadley in Deseret News; Olpin, Dictionary of Utah Art; and Dibble in the Tribune.

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