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  • Artist Profile Image - Helen H. "Lee" Deffebach
    Photo Courtesy of the Springville Museum of Art.

Helen H. "Lee" Deffebach

Helen Hortense "Lee" Deffebach was born in Houston, Texas in 1928. Deffebach is a painter known for her abstract expressionism and color field paintings. She was a long time resident of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Deffebach received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah in 1949 and studied in Florence on a Fulbright Fellowship. She worked with the New York modernists in the 1950s and 60s. She taught art at the Salt Lake Art Center, and at the University of Utah.

Deffebach's works are exhibited throughout Utah. Her work can be seen adorning the walls of hotels like the Doubletree in Salt Lake City and in the major galleries and museums of the area. Rearview Mirror, painted in 1991, is an example of one of her latest movements.

Biography adapted from Springville Museum of Art and Artists of Utah.

Originally from Houston, Texas and later residing in Salt Lake City, Lee Deffebach was one of Utah's leading abstract painters. According to Utah Art, she was the "only female nonobjective artist in Utah during the early sixties" and she did Utah's first pop-art sculptures and paintings. Deffebach received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah in 1949 and studied in Florence on a Fulbright Fellowship. She worked with the New York modernists in the 1950s and 60s. She painted with bright, basic colors on large canvases.

Deffebach's paintings are incredibly expressive. Although largely nonrepresentational, the artist has packed her works with feeling. Her "painted creations," Robert Olpin says, "have great strength as statements of personal mood." Rearview Mirror, hanging in Springville Museum's largest gallery, is a fine example of the expressive nature of her paintings. On the oversized canvas, dark colors bleed and run, and thick, wide, short brushstrokes move right and curve down. Deffebach's oranges, dark reds, greens, blues, and off-whites express a turbulent melancholy and although the thick brushstrokes portray life, energy, and movement, the painting is full of sad emotion. Deffebach's Rearview Mirror is a beautiful example of how abstract works can depict the essence of humanity. "Art," explains the artist, "is one way of self-expression. . . . Coming to terms with life is an art, being content is an art." Lee's abstract works are the reflections of her own feelings, the inner workings of her soul.

During the 1960s Deffebach experimented with pop art, creating small assemblages of commonplace items, such as pop cans and coffee cups. She created toy-like sculptures of cars and trucks and painted soda bottles, much as Andy Warhol did during the same era. Later she turned to abstract expressionism and color-field painting. Rearview Mirror, painted in 1991, is an example of one of her latest movements, "a journey into sensibility, into feeling" (Carma Wadley, The Deseret News).

Deffebach's works are exhibited throughout Utah. Her work can be seen adorning the walls of hotels like the Doubletree in Salt Lake City and in the major galleries and museums of the area. One of the most talented of Utah artists, she has a gift for the abstract portrayal of beauty. Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum of Art says that Rearview Mirror is perhaps Deffebach's greatest late period abstract expressionist piece. He adds," Rearview Mirror is fresh and alive even though painted long after its foundation school had passed. The painting's scale, broadness, and passionate spontaneity defy the myth that artists begin to pot boil in their mature periods."

Biography courtesy of Springville Museum of Art.

Newspaper Articles

"6 Exhibits At Usu's Neh Museum Offer A Diversity Of Directions." The Deseret News, November 17, 1991.

"Abstract Expressionism: Utah Women Painters Help Keep Art Style Alive And Well." The Deseret News, January 20, 1991.

"Animal Art Goes On The Block For New Shelter." The Deseret News, May 1, 1989.

"Art, Auction, Animals Combine At Benefit." The Deseret News, September 24, 1995.

"Artist was Pioneer of the Abstract for Utahns." The Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 2005.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, October 4, 1998.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, May 17, 1998.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, January 12, 1997.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, December 15, 1996.

"Galleries." The Deseret News, February 12, 1995.

"Gallery Stroll Gives Viewers' Eyes A Promenade Through Varied Terrain." The Deseret News, May 23, 1993.

"Nature's Fall Display Takes Back Seat To Wagner Canvases." The Deseret News, October 6, 1991.

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, January 4, 2004.

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, December 21, 2003.

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, February 23, 2003.

"Showing At Local Galleries." The Deseret News, September 29, 2002.

"Spring Salon Award Winners." The Deseret News, May 7, 2000.

"Spring Salon." The Deseret News, April 26, 1998.

Books

Abersold, Lila and Ruth Lubbers. "Lee Deffebach: A Retrospective Exhibition 1993." Masters Thesis, University of Utah, 1989.

Bard, Joellen. Tenth Street Days. New York, NY: Education, Art & Service, Inc. 1977.

Dunbier, Lonnie Pierson. ed. The Artists Bluebook. Scottsdale, AZ: Askart.com, 2003.

Goodrich, Lloyd. Fulbright Painters. New York, NY: Institute of International Education, 1958.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Paintings and Sculpture. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1991.

 Last Modified 4/23/14