Lee Deffebach, Roman Bath, Abstract Expressionism, utah artist, utah art

Lee Deffebach (1928-2005)

Roman Bath, 1960

29.5 x 19.5 inches

Oil on canvas



As with her modernist contemporaries in Utah, and in the art world at large, Deffebach painted for the process of painting rather than the end result. “Always let the painting process take over,” she explains.  “The goal is total involvement in the act of painting.  Let the canvas tell you what to do.” 


Deffebach’s work garnered critical attention.  A 1960 review in the The Village Voice praised the works in Lee Deffebach’s one-woman show, saying that “The best thing happening on 10th Street now is Lee Deffebach’s work at Camino.  The colors are lyric, jazzy, loud.  It’s a deep breath of fresh air after the conscious naivete, the Oh-shucks earnestness filling most of the galleries.”  The Camino Gallery sticker on the reverse of this painting indicates it hung in that very show.  

Lee Deffebach, collage

Helen "Lee" Deffebach (1928 - 2005)

Odd-Lot System, 1964

27.75 x 32.5 inches

Newsprint, ink on paper

Signed upper center

Retail Price $2,500


Odd-lot System echoes national trends in mixed-media works, combining seemingly disparate elements of newsprint and line to create vibrant composition rooted in a consciousness of time. 


Throughout her long career, Deffebach experimented with various media including collage, tin, wood, and even found objects such as glass.  That her style changed from Abstract Expressionist to Pop artist is unsurprising given her natural interest in innovation.  Her ability to use new mediums in her work reflects her ever-growing fascination to experiment and practice in her art.  


Lee Deffebach (1928-2005)

Untitled, 1965

18 x 23 inches


signed lower left

Retail Price $ 2,000



The Volkswagen bug and bus were not only ubiquitous in American marketing but they are now iconic symbols of the 1960s.  Deffebach staggers the vehicles to create the illusion of space in the composition but she leaves her own mark by incorporating oil paint.  Her swatches of color are limited but serve to give the work balance and focus the viewer’s eye on the vehicles.


Deffebach’s collages coincide with the Pop art work of Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, among others.  Springing to life just as the robust economy of the 1950s intersected with the burgeoning consumer culture of the 1960s, Pop art rejected the masculine work of the Abstract Expressionists, and instead included marketing schemes and advertisements.  Unlike its process-driven predecessor, Pop art could be made quickly and it shadowed America’s demand for novelty and convenience.   

Don Olsen (1910 – 1985)

All That Moves Is Inside Us

70 x 81 inches

Oil on canvas



Olsen wisely balances the red in this composition with four swaths of white that serve to not only confine and control the red but also provide the work with balance.  He varies the directions of his black strokes, working in a square-like pattern to set a structure and give his shapes a foundation to work.  In this way, the work can be read from the corner down around to the top again in a flowing motion that is balanced yet wild, strong yet fluid, aggressive yet organized.


“Olsen was prolific, yet always a perfectionist, and one who avoided any feeling of preciousness in his work.  I once heard him advise a younger artist: “Don’t ever become so precious about a particular passage in a work that you try to make the rest of the painting go with it.  Paint it out!  Don’t get trapped.  Keep the paint moving!” - James Haseltine



Don Olsen (1910 – 1985)

White Wall of Spain,

50 x 72 inches

Oil on canvas

Price Upon Request


Movement is an appropriate descriptor for this composition as small black strokes are answered by large ones that seem to march across the canvas. Olsen uses white on the borders of the work and concentrates the color and motion in the center of the work, focusing our eye and our attention.  The orange of the circle on the bottom of the work is a natural continuation of the red beneath the black, that serves to keep the black from overtaking the work running off Olsen’s easel.


During the 1960’s, Olsen would be known solely for his large, thickly painted-with-muscle brushwork.  Utah art experts and historians, Vern Swanson, Robert Olpin, Willian Seifrit, said he understood the intent of abstract expression better than any other Utahn.


Don Olsen (1910 – 1985)

Painting #3,

40 x 48 inches

Oil on canvas

Signed lower left



“The decade when modern artists were struggling for recognition was also notable, both in Utah and in the nation, for its turbulence and violent extremes of style, bitter arguments, and in incessant experimentation…Thanks to the articles of critics Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg, Utah artists were exposed to the language of abstract expressionism.  Radical changes in style, technique, and intent resulted in paintings on a new, larger scale that effaced the remaining differences between line and paint and affirmed two-dimensionality.”  


In his own words, Olsen asserts that, “The content of a painting is what the spectator lives or feels while under its effect.  The viewer brings to an abstract painting his own inner states and emotions which may or may not coincide with what the artist had in mind when he was painting it.  In this respect painting is like music.” – James Hasletine 


Don Olsen, utah artist, utah art, abstract expressionist,

Don Olsen (1910 – 1985)

The Dark Night of St. John of the Cross,

60 x 50 inches

oil on canvas



A quiet man, Olsen lived in Midvale and was a teacher at Jordan High School.  He fostered experimentation in his students and cautioned them work in the moment and to keep the paint moving.   


"Dark Night" is a fitting title for this work, with its sinuous black strokes that weave throughout and around the entire canvas.  Olsen keeps the black at bay by intermixing vibrant reds, oranges, and blues to balance the black and to provide the composition with movement.    

Don Olsen, utah artist, utah art, abstract expressionist,

Don Olsen (1910 – 1985)

Red Wall, c. 1965

46.5 x 72.5 inches

Oil on canvas

Signed lower right



“He had learned well the teachings of Hofmann – the theory of “Push and Pull,” of force and counterforce; plastic depth created by tensions between color and space instead of perspective; pure color as opposed to tone; painterliness and plasticity; open, pulsating paint surfaces; and automatism.” Don Olsen Retrospective, 10


In the 1960s Olsen used unmixed paints directly from his tube to attain the vibrancy evident in his large-scale works.  Though his works were audacious and bold, the artist himself lived quietly and taught school at Jordan High School. Springville Museum of Art, History and Collection, 187


Doug Snow

Doug Snow (1927 – 2009)

Poet in Reno,

39 1/2 x 29 1/2

Oil on canvas

Price upon request

Sale to benefit the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art


Doug Snow viewed each painting "as a kind of extravagant adventure." He liked his paintings to have certain firmness: he felt that if a painting’s structure felt strong, it could take a lot of improvisation and become an authentic extension of himself.


This painting, executed soon after his return from the Cranbook Academy of Art, shows the artist simplifying and reducing forms to broad swaths of color painted with bold colors.  The exact meaning of the composition, which retains some representation of three human figures, remains unknown.


Snow studied at the University of Utah from 1943-1945, majoring in theater. He later attended New York's American Art School, Columbia University, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. At Cranbrook, Snow rapidly finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in 1949 and 1950.  Snow joined the University of Utah art department faculty in 1954.  His abstract viewpoint drew opposition among some faculty, though he has come to viewed as perhaps having done the most to open Utah to modernism.  Selected collections include the Museum of Modern Art; the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; the Springville Museum of Art, and the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University.

George Dibble, abstract expressionist, utah artist

George Smith Dibble (1904 – 1992)

Sketch for Cubist Breaks,

15 1/2 x 22 inches





Dibble was a painter, teacher, and art critic for The Salt Lake Tribune who, throughout his career, greatly influenced numerous artists and students. He died in 1992.


He took his first art class through the mail from a Cleveland cartoonist and caricaturist. Dibble received a teaching certificate in 1926 and then returned to the University for additional classes in 1928.  Although he previously had taken many art classes, he did not feel his learning began until he was in New York City studying at the Art Student's League.  He stated, "I found my style at the Art Student's League. School was drudgery until I got to New York and realized I had a point of view, that I could use it and get recognition for it."


In the late 1930s, the Utah State Art Center exhibited works by Dibble and Bill Parkinson in what was probably the first non-objective art show in Salt Lake City. Dibble was a member of the first Modern Artists of Utah and participated in an exhibition and helped write a formal statement to the public, both intended to increase the understanding and acceptance of modern art in Utah. 

Fletcher, abstract expressionist

Dale Fletcher (1929 – 1990)

The Bleachers, 1962

25 1/8 x 20 inches

woodcut print





The son of noted Utah artist Calvin Fletcher, Dale Fletcher was born on February 21, 1929 in Utah.  Fletcher was a painter and teacher of studio, art history, and elementary education courses.  He passed away May 21, 1990


Fletcher earned a bachelor of science from Utah State University in 1953, and a Masters of Arts from the University of California in Berkeley in 1956.  He joined the art faculty at BYU in 1965 and taught there until he unexpectedly resigned to pursue a cult of pyramidology. 


Fletcher’s works were shown at a number of galleries and he won the purchase prize at the Institute of Fine Arts exhibit in 1961.  In the late 1970’s Fletcher was apponted to the directorship of BYU’s art gallery.  (Biography adapted from Artists of Utah)

Nel Ivancich

Nel Ivancich (1941 – 2014)


29 x 21 inches

mixed media on paper

Retail Sale $2,000

Sale to benefit the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art


“Much of my work refers to the spare and wild terrain surrounding my home next to the Santa Rosa National Monument in Southern California’s high desert.  Whether it is the sense of being enveloped within the dramatic day and night skies or feeling attuned to the slow growing patterns of desert fauna, living close to Nature provides ongoing inspiration. My intention is to spotlight in the abstract what appear to be brief intervals within natural and human-made accumulations over time.” 





Nel Ivancich was born in Salt Lake City in 1941.  She was a painter of color field abstractions.  Don Olsen, a foremost Utah painter, was her instructor at Jordan High School.  Ivancich said “I appreciated his enthusism for art and his ability to encourage confidence in his students.” She studied at Chouinard Institute of Art in Los Angeles.  She earned her BFA in 1985, and her MFA in 1987 from the University of Utah.  Ivancich said about her education “Professors Tony Smith, Sam Wilson, Bob Kleinschmidt and Doug Snow provided a quality mix of instruction, humor and example during a particularly energetic time in the Art Department, when Dr. Robert “Bob“ Olpin presided as Dean.” She was life-long friends with Cathy Pardike, Lee Deffebach, Susan Slade and Carolyn Coalson.  She said they “shared my enthusiasm for abstract art and artists and, even though three of us have since left Utah, we maintain contact and friendship.” 

Mary Chenoweth, abstract art

Mary Chenoweth (1918 – 1999)

North Africa 15/15,

25 x 17 1/2 inches

wood cut print




Mary Chenoweth was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and studied at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pratt Institute in New York City before completing her B.F.A. at the University of Denver in 1950, where she studied with Vance Kirkland. She was awarded an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1953 and was then hired to teach in Colorado Springs at what would become the art department at Colorado College, where she taught until her retirement in 1983. 

Along with her once-professor Vance Kirkland, Chenoweth was instrumental in the development of Modern art in this region. In many of her works, Chenoweth adopted the visual language of abstract Cubism through mixed media and collage – a process she began after moving to Colorado Springs. On a 1954 visit to Mexico, Chenoweth became fascinated with the oversized street posters she encountered there. Chenoweth’s frequent use of collaged paper, and imagery derived from it, can also be attributed to her exposure to the folk arts of China, Malaysia, Morocco, and Australia. This overlay of Modernism with folk art imagery provided some of Chenoweth’s strongest work.