Dorothy Hood

(American, 1918-2000) 

The Face in the Sea, ca. 1970

Oil on canvas; 70” x 59 3⁄4”


Collection of the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi

Hood’s unique aesthetic lies in her particular synthesis of New York Abstraction and Mexican Surrealism. This painting delivers a perfect example of her characteristical dynamic hybridization in which color field Modernism melds seamlessly with Surrealist mysticism. Throughout her career, Hood maintained a deep fascination with environmental landscapes and their geological phenomena; natural spaces where time and earth tensely intersected to reveal an ancient history. Immersive, smooth blacks and glowing, fiery reds conjure the origins of Earth itself as an infinite rock with a core of molten lava. Lost in the vastness of the canvas’ grand scale and abstraction, the title betrays us. With no obvious “face” or “sea”, we are asked to probe our own psyches, thereby forming a type of collaboration with the artist, in which the deep mysteries of both the sea and the volcano, evoke visions of the sublime. In the upper right corner, we envision the dusty reds of Martian landscapes. After returning from Mexico in 1962, Hood was again living and working in Houston where she was to live, work, and teach for the rest of her life. In Houston, she was supplied with a much larger studio that enabled her to create on the grand scale of the Mexican muralists she early admired. In Texas, her paintings, like this one, finally grew to a size befitting their subject and here she created her most successful works. 


University of Houston

Special Collections – MD Anderson Library

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