Abstract Surrealist painter Dorothy Hood, was born in Bryan, Texas in 1918, and her life and work embraced much of the 20th Century in Mexico and the United States where she was regarded as a pioneer because of her exceptional use of color and daring techniques. She was a prolific painter who created many large-scale canvases washed with intense colors. Other mediums for her were ink drawing, printing and collages.
Hood traveled to Mexico in 1941 after studies at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, and Art Students League, New York City, where, in her early to mid-twenties, she became part of the circle of leading artists and writers of Europe and Mexico. She married Bolivian composer Velasco Maidana.
A close friend of famed Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco and influenced artistically by him--Hood, in 1941 had her first exhibition at the Gama Gallery in Mexico City of realist gouache and oil self-portraits and portraits of families and children, and paintings of animals. Her catalogue essay was a prose poem by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who would, in the future, win a Nobel Prize in Literature.
The volcano, Paracutin, erupted the night before her show opened. Critics speculated about who could say the gods were unaware of Dorothy Hood and her paintings?
She married Velasco Maidana, a Bolivian conductor and composer, and spent the next nineteen years in Mexico, but also traveled widely including in Central, South and North America. Hood was in New York studying during most of 1945. There she was influenced by James Thrall Soby's book, After Picasso, and produced some drawings, one of which was shown by a friend of hers to Soby, an important curatorial figure at the Museum of Modern Art.
Soby hung Hood's drawing in his office and included it in a major traveling exhibition in the United States. This meant that Dorothy Hood was twenty-seven years old, and exhibiting with Picasso and Matisse in an exhibition sponsored by a major American museum. This phenomenon of Soby being shown and liking her drawing was the nearly exact replica of her high school art teacher entering one of her paintings in a competition that won her some years earlier a National Scholastic Scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design.
In 1950 at age thirty two, Hood had a solo exhibition at the Willard Gallery at a time when it was difficult for women to gain exhibitions. Displaying great enterprise, to gain entry, she had hung her paintings in a rented room, then gotten gallery directors and curators to visit her private exhibition. Marian Willard saw it on the last day. Through Willard, Hood also met artist Mark Tobey and the Director of the Ahrensberg Atelier in Switzerland, and these associations led to the meeting of many European art dealers and to her working as an equal with major European artists.
She was back in Texas with her husband in 1961, and she became a prominent teacher at the Houston School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts. The couple found the city exciting as their first years there were years of much fascination with the first man landing on the moon. Hood was profoundly affected by the American space program and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and later said they inspired her to turn her brushes and paints toward the vastness of the universe.
From 1962, she began exhibiting her work at a major gallery in Houston, and had five one-person exhibitions at major Texas museums since 1971. In 1973, she won a Childe Hassam Purchase Prize at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City. A thirty-year retrospective traveling exhibition curated by the Everson Museum in Syracuse, helped establish her national reputation, snow-balling to an international reputation through exhibitions and commissions in New York, Canada and Europe.
A poet as well as a painter, Dorothy Hood has had two films made about her: From the Heart, 1982, and Dorothy Hood: The Color of Life, 1985.
She died on November 3, 2000, at the age of 82. The South Texas Institute of the Arts acquired Hood's estate in 2002 and mounted its first major exhibition of her works, including a recreation of her studio, in spring 2003.