Agnes Pelton: Poet of Nature

Agnes Pelton: Poet of Nature was the first comprehensive retrospective exhibition of the artist's paintings, examining her art as an alternative to the dominant trends of American modernism. It placed Pelton's work in a larger historical context, but emphasizing the perspective of her own life. The exhibition was organized by the Palm Springs Desert Museum and curated by Michael Zakian.

Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) is one of this country's pioneering abstract painters. She exhibited in the landmark 1913 Armory Show, the first major exhibition of modern art in the United States. Although she was an abstract artist, her abstractions were poetic celebrations of nature. Using fanciful shapes and vibrant color, she translated images into bold, imaginative compositions. With these life-affirming paintings, she captured the spirit within nature and focused on themes of growth, abundance, and transformation.

During the 1910s, Pelton lived in Greenwich Village and experimented with progressive art and alternative lifestyles. But in 1921, she moved to the historic Hayground windmill in Water Mill and lived there for ten years. During this time, Pelton began painting portraits of local residents and summer visitors. Many went out of their way to assist her by securing portrait commissions and finding exhibition opportunities in private clubs and other venues. One who shared Pelton's interest in portraiture was Samuel Parrish, who commissioned portraits of himself. Living in Southampton, Pelton established many long-lasting friendships during this period, probably her most social years.

A major change in Pelton's art occured in the winter of 1926. Living alone in the windmill gave her time to look inward. Inspired by her solitude, she painted her first abstractions. In 1932, Pelton moved to the California desert, and painted landscapes and abstractions inspired by the desert scenery. Her abstractions from this period are as striking as those of her better-known contemporary, Georgia O'Keeffe.

Agnes Pelton: Poet of Nature included over fifty paintings and spans her career. The exhibition was accompanied by a 128-page catalogue featuring an in-depth essay on the artist and her work. Agnes Pelton: Poet of Nature was made possible at The Parrish Art Museum with the support of The Exhibition Fund.