Etta Deikman notably studied painting with Hans Hoffman at his School of Art in New York City. While at Black Mountain College in the 1948 summer session, she studied painting with Willem de Kooning and sculpture with Peter Grippe. She was there for the legendary summer of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller who were also brought on by Josef Albers to teach. Deikman approaches each painting as an adventurous journey, finding surprising relationships and ideas as she goes; this sort of freedom of thought and acceptance of chance aligns with the way students were taught at Black Mountain College.
—Whitney Richardson, associate curator
It’s no secret I look forward to each time we install different works of art in the SECU Collection Hall, and this spring’s rotation of fresh works is by far my favorite. High Flyer by Etta Deikman immediately caught my eye. When I studied painting in college, I couldn’t wait to move on from creating still life after still life. It felt like the formalities of figurative painting and learning to mix oil paints went on forever when abstraction was calling me! I felt an ardent desire to express myself, and the act of painting distinctive versions of crumpled paper, an egg, and a drinking cup in sepia or grayscale wasn’t cutting it for me. Naturally, I was often reminded that you must learn the rules before you can break them. For me, painting is less about accurately portraying an inanimate object or realistically describing a person or a landscape; a painting is more so a state of mind, a form of unfiltered expression, or even a way to process a particular moment or phase in my life. That’s why I connect with Deikman’s High Flyer. The first thing I noticed is that this work gives the illusion of consisting of four separate canvases but is actually a single canvas divided into four quadrants by distinct vertical lines. Theoretically, each quadrant could be a single work of art, but collectively the sections add different dynamics that relate to the whole. Like me, Deikman is not afraid of color or expressive brushstrokes. My eyes travel in and out of different spaces, stopping to admire surprising relationships between color, line, and brushstrokes. Gazing at this work I find myself wondering what new ideas and perspectives on life and art Deikman must’ve formulated during its creation. The best time to enjoy High Flyer is on a sunny afternoon when the light from the gallery windows shines through just right, making the bright tones burst off the canvas.
—Devon Fero, communications & external affairs assistant
This artwork is on view in Intersections in American Art.