Lois Dodd is best known for her works in which she paints the world around her-from her apartment windows in New York City to the woods and gardens of Maine and New Jersey. The exhibition Lois Dodd: Catching the Light is the first career retrospective for the painter and features more than 50 paintings from six decades. The exhibition will be on view January 17 through April 7, 2013, at the Portland Museum of Art
Born in 1927 in Montclair, New Jersey, Dodd first moved to New York as a student at the Cooper Union. She studied there from 1945 to 1948, a time when New York emerged as the postwar art capital of the world and Abstract Expressionism flourished. In 1952, she was the only female co-founder of the Tanager Gallery, along with artists Philip Pearlstein and Charles Cajori, among others. Rather than turn to abstraction, minimalism, or Pop, Dodd has remained faithful to painting her immediate surroundings throughout her career, whether it be a country landscape or an interior view of her apartment.
Dodd was a key member of New Yorks postwar art scene and later taught at Brooklyn College for 25 years. She also found a second home in Maine and became associated with the Lincolnville artists, including Alex Katz and Neil Welliver, before moving to Midcoast Maine where she has lived and painted for several decades.
Dodd was part of the wave of New York modernists to explore the coast of Maine in the later half of the 20th-century. Like Fairfield Porter, Rackstraw Downes, Alex Katz, and Neil Welliver, Dodd started spending her summers in Maine, beginning in 1951. Attracted by the inexpensive but rambling old farmhouses, endless woods, stone quarries, and the bright sunshine, Dodd and her fellow artists sought both companionship and escape from the demands of city life. At one time, Dodd shared a house with Alex Katz who refers to Dodds work as, fresh, honest, direct in the exhibition catalogue. To this day, Dodd can be found trekking through the fields and forests in her Maine environs with canvas and paint supplies in hand.
She often works en plein air, starting paintings on site in the woods or other location and finishing them in her studio. In her essay, exhibition curator Barbara OBrien writes, Her paintings are premised on the truth that she stood in this place, with the light casting shadows just so, the temperature of the air warm or cool, the sun warm against her face, protected by the brim of a straw hat; her fingers able to employ brush to linen against the wind of a New Jersey winter. At times, her observations are so direct that she uses the window to frame her compositions, as seen in the exhibitions View of Neighbors House in Winter.
Dodd often returns to the same location and views to explore at different times of day and times of year. Lois Dodd: Catching the Light includes views of a mens shelter outside her Lower East Side apartment that become studies of light, architecture, and the city. In Mens Shelter, April, 1968, one sees the verdant grass of spring with shadows cast by the surrounding architecture of the neighboring buildings, depicted through her flat blocks of color. Artist Will Barnet described Dodds work by noting that, she has this broad imagery and also this ability to do different subjects and give them what was important in that particular moment. She has an extraordinary body of feeling about the possibility of imagery that can be so different from each other, yet each a work of art, which is not easy to do.
Dodd is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design, and a member of the board of governors for the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Among many honors, she recently was awarded the Benjamin West Clinedinist Memorial Medal in 2007 from the Artists Fellowship, Inc. and Cooper Unions Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award for professional achievement in art in 2005. Her works can be found in museums including New Yorks Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and Portland Museum of Art, Maine, among others. Dodd currently resides in both New York and Maine.