Dorothy Hood: The Edge of Being

October 14th, 2021 – March 2023

 As an artist, Texas-born Dorothy Hood (1918-2000) was best known for abstract works layered with a variety of materials, motifs and meanings. During her long career, her canvases and works on paper often referenced physical and mental landscapes as well as the connections between inner and outer worlds. Hood’s work was liminal, seamlessly moving between big concepts and the deeply personal.

Hood described her ease with in-between zones in terms of a pliant tension. “I have looked towards an affirmative background in experiencing a world of the spiritual realm,” she wrote in a statement for an early exhibition at New York’s Willard Gallery. “By the spiritual we discover manifold life, folding over. Yet there is an edge of being, an attitude of seeing… I see the spirit [revealed] from a pliant tension…”

That metaphorical “edge” where such dualities as Earth/space or spirit/matter came together certainly served as a space for Hood’s creative prowess. Yet nothing was ever absolute with her. The artist was just as interested in resolving aesthetic dilemmas. In fact, some of Hood’s best works expressed frictions between the reductive qualities of her many voids—moments when nothing (or everything) was left out of her compositions—and an accumulative practice characterized by texture, densely packed pigment, and abundant material.

The works featured in Dorothy Hood: The Edge of Being reflect her aesthetic range: from the heavy tar blacks of The Face in the Sea (1970) and Going Forth V (1997) to the luminous moonlit glow of The Angel’s Key (1987), to the bars of color and razor-sharp forms in Coptic Days (ca. 1981), to the painterly approach and wit of the undated Red Autumn, to the zones of light and dark in Homage to Matisse (ca. 1969) or Time the Bridge of Doors (1979). Together with ephemera and other materials from the artist’s personal archive, these artworks serve as extraordinary examples of the intensity and soul that defined her being.

Dorothy Hood: The Edge of Being is organized by Public Art of the University of Houston System in collaboration with the Art Museum of South Texas (AMST) and UH Libraries Special Collections. The exhibition features artworks from several collections including those of Public Art UHS and the AMST as well as objects drawn from the Dorothy Hood Papers, a collection of the Art Museum of South Texas and the University of Houston Libraries.

The exhibition expands beyond the gallery space at Special Collections and into the campuses of the University of Houston and the University of Houston-Clear Lake. See map of artworks below.


University of Houston

Special Collections – MD Anderson Library 

Bert F. Winston Band Complex at TDECU Stadium

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts Wortham Theatre Lobby


University of Houston-Clear Lake

Bayou Building


Special Collections is currently open Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and by appointment. We encourage visitors to contact Head of Special Collections Christian Kelleher at or 713-743-0346 for more information and directions—and to get a special extended look into Dorothy Hood’s personal archives in UH Libraries Special Collections.

Join us for an intimate celebration of the exhibition Dorothy Hood: The Edge of Being.

Dorothy Hood at UH

The University of Houston is fast becoming the premier destination for scholars, students and others interested in the work of Dorothy Hood (1918-2000). 

Learn more about the personal papers of Dorothy Hood at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Map of Artworks

A map charting out locations of Dorothy Hood works at the University of Houston and across the UH System is available here.

Exhibition Highlights

The Angel’s Key, 1987

Coptic Days, ca. 1981

Time the Bridge of Doors, 1979

Going Forth V, 1997

The Face in the Sea, ca. 1970

Red Autumn, n.d.

Homage to Matisse, ca. 1969