The Whitney Museum, 1997

Ekphrastic Poem

for Jay Defeo

If you have formed a Circle go into it, go into it yourself and see how you would do.
– William Blake

In a rented studio on Fillmore Street
she worked on her obsession
colossal circles
like the ones she used to draw as a child
symmetrical radiating facets in white
hues of reds and browns
against a black background
paint piling
multi-dimensional transformation
a sculpture rising from a flat plane
she worked
in a white lab coat and
cotton gloves
chipping away the dried crusty oil paint
sipping brandy
smoking Gauloise cigarettes
watching a rock strata
emerge from the endless depth of 
her circle.

About “The Rose” from

“First exhibited in 1969, The Rose was taken to the San Francisco Art Institute, where it was covered with plaster for support and protection, and finally stored behind the wall of a conference room. Legend grew about the painting, but it remained sealed until 1995, when Whitney curator Lisa Phillips had it excavated and restored by a team of conservators, who created a backing strong enough to support the heavy paint.”

Photo Credit: Jay DeFeo working on The Rose, 1958–66 (known at that time as The White Rose), San Francisco, 1960–61.

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