Press Releases

MICA to celebrate, remember legacy of alumna Dorothy Gillespie, known as trailblazing feminist artist

BALTIMORE — This summer, The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) will celebrate the legacy of world renowned artist Dorothy Gillespie, and host a retrospective exhibition containing 29 pieces spanning decades of her career.

Gillespie ’41 (General Fine Arts), a prominent and groundbreaking artist in New York City from the 1940s until her death in 2012, helped blaze a path for women during the feminist art movement. 

The exhibition will be on view in MICA’s Fred Lazarus IV Center, Riggs and Leidy Galleries, 131 W. North Ave., Baltimore, from Friday, May 31 through Friday, June 14. The opening reception and introductory program will be on Thursday, May 30 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Gillespie, born in 1920 and raised in Virginia, graduated from MICA in 1941. A 1983 recipient of the MICA Alumni Medal, she moved to NYC post-graduation where she joined the Art Students League and created work at the well-known printmaking studio Atelier 17. She was a successful painter, sculptor and installation artist.

Her work encompassed many significant twentieth-century trends in art, including abstract expressionism, decorative abstraction, site-specific installations, the women’s movement and art in public spaces. She pioneered joyful new directions for metal sculpture and is best known for her large-scale, colorfully painted arrangements of cut aluminum strips that radiate, undulate or curl like giant arrangements of ribbon, enchanted towers or bursting fireworks.

Gillespie’s work can be found all over the country in both public and private spaces, in the permanent collections of many museums such as the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum in New York City, in airports and corporate headquarters, on the ballet stage and also as multiples in museum shops. One of Gillespie’s largest installations is located in Orlando, Florida, and is 62-feet high with 720 starburst spheres. Her crowning achievement was her massive 185-piece outdoor installation at New York’s Rockefeller Center in 2003.

In addition to her own artwork, Gillespie also taught, mentored and lectured. From 1977 until 1982, she gave a lecture series at the New School for Social Research and was a Woodrow Wilson visiting fellow from 1985 until 1994. Her radio program, The Dorothy Gillespie Show, ran on WHBL in New York from 1967 until 1973. As a feminist advocate, Gillespie helped organize the Women’s Interart Center, a feminist-oriented organization for women in the arts.

In 2001 Dorothy Gillespie received the Women’s Caucus Art Lifetime Award, which recognizes women who have distinguished themselves by their activism and commitment to the women’s movement and the arts. As a legacy, she established a foundation to continue her work and the women’s art movement after her death.

Gillespie was a member of the MICA Alumni Council, where she served as chair and alumni trustee. She was a frequent MICA visiting artist and workshop leader, and hosted numerous alumni receptions at her 53rd Street Studio in New York City.

This exhibition honors her 100th birthday and celebrates her legacy at MICA, as well as her more than seven-decade career.