Friday, November 20, 2015


Donna Dennis is an artist friend who for over half a century has been pursuing her own vision in works that cannot be compared to any other artist's (though since she began showing her art there has certainly been art by others that seems inspired or influenced by hers, in my opinion).

I have always loved her creations since the first show of hers I saw back in the downtown Manhattan of the 1970s. She and I at one time lived only blocks from each other on Duane Street in what hadn't yet been designated "Tribeca" except by real estate people trying to create a new "Soho" style neighborhood in what was still a wasteland of warehouses and small manufacturing lofts where living was still outlawed and only a handful of artists and other creative pioneers dared make their homes there.

She's still there. I got priced out after Di Niro and others bought into the neighborhood and spent too much and made it too hip, and then Battery Park City was built, and the neighborhood went to those who could afford it, no longer the artists and writers and dancers and musicians et. al. who had first settled the area.

But Donna is still there, at 73, creating structures that fill gallery spaces (the gouache piece above is a "study" for the structure that is the centerpiece of her latest exhibit called "Studies For a Little Tube House and Night Sky") with work that is captivatingly personal and cosmic at the same time. It is the mark of her human scale models of bigger structures that they seem both ordinary and unexpected. And she's still fighting investors trying to get her out of the building near Broadway where she's rented and worked and lived in a loft once nobody wanted and now everybody does.

As my friend and fellow poet Rachel Diken said about Donna and her ongoing dedication to the kind of artist's life few dare to attempt these days, especially when she heard that Donna is 73 and still constructing sculptures that sometimes fill vast gallery spaces (though this show she scaled down to fit into the Mixed Green Gallery (531 West 26th Street, first floor)), she said Donna is a "bad ass artist" and she is.

Donna is also a legend among my generation of downtown Manhattan creators. She was associated with The Saint Mark's Poetry Project since the 1960s and has been doing covers for poetry books from that scene since then, in my memory, and is still doing them.

I highly recommend you check out this show and support a living legend whose work deserves to be more widely known and respected, as she herself should be counted among the under recognized artists of our generation and given more awards, and more support for her struggle to maintain her place of work and living, while real estate sharks and the 1 per centers continue to engulf the few remaining outposts of downtown pioneers who created a reason to even consider investing in or moving to "Tribeca"—or as it was originally known: Washington Market.

Donna Dennis: legendary bad ass artist.

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