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Betty Parsons
c. 1970
wood, acrylic and gouache, canvas, and metal (nails and staples)
.a Overall: 9 1/2 × 7 1/4 × 7 1/8 inches (24.1 × 18.4 × 18.1 cm).b Overall: 6 1/8 × 3 3/8 × 1 1/2 inches (15.6 × 8.6 × 3.8 cm).c Overall: 4 1/8 × 1 13/16 × 1 1/2 inches (10.5 × 4.6 × 3.8 cm).d Overall: 5 × 2 15/16 × 5/8 inches (12.7 × 7.5 × 1.6 cm).e Overall: 2 3/4 × 1/4 × 1/4 inches (7 × 0.6 × 0.6 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of William McPherrin and Keith Robinson in honor of Craig Duff.
Accession Number
Betty Parsons was the founder and driving force behind the Betty Parsons Gallery, which played a pivotal role in the history of Modernism through her championing of Abstract Expressionism. With her gallery and the artists she represented there, Parsons helped New York supplant Paris as the center of the art world—American abstraction would become synonymous with democracy and post-war American values. The Betty Parsons Gallery was also ahead of its time in representing artists of color, Latin American artists, and women abstract expressionists including Ethel Schwabacher and Elaine de Kooning, represented in Telfair Museums’ permanent collection and on view in this gallery.

Parsons’ artistic work has been treated as a footnote to her successful and influential career as an art professional, but being an artist was deeply rooted in her identity. Parsons developed a working method that relied heavily upon spontaneity and a desire to convey “sheer energy” and “the new spirit.” She spent her weekends in her studio in the hamlet of Southold, Long Island, designed specifically for her by the artist Tony Smith. Her sculptural works comprised pieces of detritus (drift wood, signage, pieces of furniture) gathered from the beach near her home—wood that had a “beautiful weathered quality from the sand and the water and the sun”—which she then painted. This untitled assemblage is possibly a model or maquette of an interior architectural space such as her studio, and comprises five individual elements assembled together. The miniature canvas painting would have been hung on a nail on the wall, and the God’s eye symbol was employed by Parsons frequently during the 1970s and is indicative of her interest in Native American motifs.