Has Henry James Put Me in This Mood?



A collage by Dennis, reflecting her interest in how interior spaces relate to feminism. Made in 1971 in her loft on Grand Street. Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

Ted Berrigan was the first in the circle of poets around the Poetry Project at Saint Mark’s Church to ask me to design an announcement mailer for one of his readings. He encouraged others to do the same. In the late sixties, I designed a number of flyers and covers for mimeographed poetry books. These gave me the first public exposure for my work.

Ted and I saw one another off and on for about five years. In the spring of 1970, we lived together on Saint Mark’s Place in the East Village, until June, when Ted went to teach a course in Buffalo. I moved into the artists Rudy Burckhardt and Yvonne Jacquette’s loft on East Fourteenth Street while they summered in Maine. Ted stayed with me for a number of weekends that summer, and he proposed that we undertake a collaborative book. As I remember, I began the collaboration by making drawings with empty word balloons. I’m pretty sure Ted provided the project’s title at the outset. Ted would take the drawings—I think I made them in batches of four or five—back to Buffalo, where he began to fill in the words. We went back and forth this way, sometimes in person, sometimes by mail. I had forgotten all about this collaboration by the time Ted Berrigan’s youngest son, Eddie, contacted me in the summer of 2018. He wanted to bring me something his father and I had done together, which had recently turned up. As I looked at sixteen pages of my drawings and Ted’s handwritten words, the memories came back. These diaries describe some of them, along with the artistic milieu I was in in New York at that time—which included the painter Martha Diamond and the poets Bernadette Mayer, Michael Brownstein, Anne Waldman, and John Giorno.

The summer of 1970 was a turbulent time in our relationship. Where would Ted be in the fall, and with whom? Could I live with someone and make my work in the same space? In September I moved out of Rudy and Yvonne’s place and into a loft on Grand Street in Little Italy. One day, Ted came to pick something up while I was at work. I had left him a note saying that I couldn’t go on with the relationship. He left a note in response, clearly upset. Separately, we each created one more drawing for our collaboration. I made an angry alternative version of the cover and Ted made an angry drawing for the end. Neither of us ever saw these private expressions of pain and disappointment until Eddie brought the long-ago collaboration to me in 2018. I had kept mine over the years, and now here was Ted’s.

In the end, Ted and I remained great friends. When I completed a new piece, he’d often be the first to see it. His enthusiastic reactions and always interesting observations meant the world to me. When he died in 1983 at age forty-eight, I realized that he had been my mentor. One thing I learned from him was to always finish what I began. I learned that when I kept going, past the hope of creating anything good, I often had my breakthroughs. 


May 30, 1970

Have been working hard since Ted left. It was way past time. But I’ve finally surfaced through despair and nausea and a two-day headache. I’ve done one acceptable (for now) self-portrait in oils and today I did four or five India-ink drawings with word balloons for Ted to fill in. In both cases (oil-painting) and drawing (from photos) I’ve surprised myself.

It is such a relief to be working—really working with my hands—eyes—head—heart for hours at a time. Whatever else one can say for or against it, working on paper & canvas keeps you busy.

I’ve so much work to do—drawing, at last, is something I know I want to have—and it will take work, many, many drawings—gradually getting better with practice & thought and involvement. I feel almost as if I’m waking up from some dream in which I sat waiting for works to happen like magic when the feeling was on me. Now I feel that I should do one drawing perhaps every day.

Monday night I had a brief but nearly total depression. I thought if I couldn’t begin work again and find satisfaction in it, there would be no reason nor shape to my existence. To me.

Ted is wonderful but being with him and not working was becoming a nightmare. I want him to be here next fall—but if he is, there will be the challenge of finding the time and privacy to work and work hard. It will be absolutely necessary to meet that challenge and resolve it successfully or else I will have to live alone.

I “slipped” on the phone today and let mother guess I was talking on my own telephone. I said, “I just got it.” She said, “You didn’t tell us.” I really don’t care—or can’t afford to.


May 31, 1970

Oh, to have my only work be my art work. I’ve just woken up at noon. I won’t begin work yet for maybe several hours, but I’ve promised myself to do four or five drawings today and already there is purpose and excitement to my day. Everything I do will be working up to doing that drawing.

In the last two weeks I’ve read The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac, a really full and inspiring book. If I could get the “sweetness and sadness” of life, all of it into my works as Kerouac does, I’d feel my works were really worthwhile. I think I am coming to understand what Ted means about getting more than just flashes into your work—about getting everything in. Aiming at only the great ecstatic moments is what put me in the position of waiting and waiting for the work to come. That is no way to work. I think maybe that is what I’ve come to understand in the last week.


June 9, 1970

Rented a Polaroid today and took pictures of Jim Carroll—to use on the cover I’m designing for his book 4 Ups and 1 Down (four love poems and one hate poem). I had fun with the Polaroid (I want to own one) and I got one picture that I think will be good for the cover.

I went down to Les Levine’s this morning at 9:00 to see if he had any good pictures of Jim (he didn’t for my purposes & I woke Les up though we’d had an appointment). Coming back in a cab, I saw a man dragging a big square piece of plywood across the street to plunk it down next to a big earthy hole he was digging in the street. The plywood looked as if it might cover the hole. I felt a vague excitement—a stirring of memories about how exciting a hole with earth heaped beside it had been to me a few years ago—I remembered digging for red clay—digging into a hill, digging for Australia, digging ’til water came in, the danger of digging a deep hole and getting inside, etc.


Collage made as a proposed cover for “Memorial Day,” a long poem by Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan. Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

June 10, 1970

Had a great long talk with Martha about working, about boyfriends, about working with boyfriends around, etc.

Then Ted called. Another great but briefer talk. He asked me if I wanted to come see him—I said YES—he said O.K. and maybe I can stay for awhile and we can see Niagara Falls and visit painters there and look out his 8th-story window at the Poussin-like landscape and there’s a big desk where I can do great works.

He says he’s working on putting writings to the drawings I did—might need more drawings. He wants his mail sent, says he’s really getting into poetry, wants me to pick up some of the Sonnets for him—and he’ll be here a week from Friday—about the time I get home from work.


June 11, 1970

Went to see Red Grooms’s show Tappy Toes at Tibor de Nagy today. It was violent, rich and exhilarating. I returned to work feeling cocky and giddy and inspired to get a bit of the Red Grooms’s zaniness into my cover design for Jim Carroll’s book. Especially appropriate because Jim and Devereaux happened to be at the show the same time I was. And on the street outside, I met Larry Fagin and Joan Inglis.

As I’ve been walking around the city lately, New York has been looking quite wonderful to me. I found a terrific street just below Gramercy Park today between 3rd Ave. & Irving Place that had all kinds of houses. There was a Spanish one with a tiled roof and a beautiful tiled doorway below street level that looked wonderful, cool & inviting.

And then there was a kind of Dutch one with a stepped roof.

On Irving Place up just below Gramercy Park there was a doorway inside another doorway that was the richest, darkest, shiniest, classiest, most opulent doorway I’ve ever seen. Wide and generous and exclusive with gas lamps mounted on either side.

Along the west side of Gramercy Park, I found a row of New Orleans-style houses that looked cool and relaxed and southern with their white wrought iron porches and balconies. On one balcony someone had put a round wrought iron table and two chairs—and a vase of flowers on the table. A big, shiny motorcycle leaned near the doorway of another house.

Has Henry James put me in this mood? I was inspired to see New York through Red Grooms’s eyes too, though it all seems quite ’40ish & ’50ish that way—or maybe it’s just that his New York is like the New York I saw in childhood Little Golden books. There was a wonderful interior of a taxi with a frame in the shape of the taxi sign.


June 12, 1970

The cover for Jim Carroll’s book 4 Ups and 1 Down is finished. I’m pretty happy with it. Jim striding through a black sky filled with whirling, flashing stars.


Dennis’s cover for Jim Carroll’s 4 Ups and 1 Down, published in 1970 by Angel Hair, a press run by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh. Courtesy of the Morgan Museum and Library.

June 19, 1970

Sitting here in Rudy and Yvonne’s loft (airy, bright, late-afternoon feel) drinking wine, waiting for Ted who said he’d be here soon.

Still getting the feel of this place. I haven’t had much time for contemplation yet. Monday, late, Lewis MacAdams and Tom Veitch helped me to move in here. Tuesday, I had Fran Williams and Bob Cobuzio and Martha here for Fran’s birthday—one day late. I gave Fran a fish poacher with a paper fish made by me inside—stuffed with little candies. The dinner was not a great success because I wasn’t used to shopping here or cooking in this kitchen. I thought of giving Fran keys for her birthday so that she could work here in one of the back rooms but I want very much to be by myself at least until I know what I want to do. (The workspace here is quite inspiring.)

Last night I went to dinner at Larre’s with just about everyone—a kind of farewell for the summer. People there were:

Ron & Pat Padgett

George & Katie Schneeman

Anne & Michael

Clark Coolidge

Tom Veitch (later)

Gerard Malanga

Tessie Mitchell

Bill Berkson

Carol & Dick Gallup

Jim Carroll

Joan & Larry

I sat beside George & Larry & across from Ron. We ate at the long table in the garden under a tent but there was a terrible rainstorm and it was rather damp & funny.

Later we went to George’s where George did a giant nude portrait of everyone sitting in a corner. Larry took movies. I really wanted to be part of it all (it feels weird, too, to have your clothes on when no one else does) but I had to get home to get some sleep.

Jim made a special point of telling me how much he liked the cover I did for his book 4 Ups and 1 Down. Anne said it will be printed by Monday.

The question now: What works?

Since it’s been bothering me for years—should I take the time to acquire the traditional tools of the artist—esp. drawing? Even if I don’t use it, it might set me free for other things. Or is this desire to learn to draw just a basic insecurity that I should overcome by pure guts?


June 23, 1970

Got a $25 refund from the government today (miscalculation on my part) so I paid some bills and my debt is down to $800 (not counting what I owe Daddy for the loft security deposit).

Ron and Pat and Wayne Padgett came over to bring me plants I will keep for them this summer.

I did four drawings tonight for Ted’s collaboration. They’re a little looser & I hope more interesting because I know they’ll be used.


June 25, 1970

Just woke up from an after-work nap. I’m going to try that for a while and see if that’s a good way to get into work. I wake every morning to the new day and all the bright light in this place— so excited and at peace and full of the new day. But gradually as I have to leave and go uptown and the day wears on, the good feeling drains away and when I get back here, it’s hard to feel great about going to work. So the new plan is to take a nap. Then wake up and work. There isn’t the morning light but there is the waking up and beginning again.

I went to Andy Warhol’s (the Factory) today to get Andy’s new flower print for Ted and from Gerard Malanga three prints each for Ted and me of self-portraits (photo-silkscreen) Gerard did for his new Black Sparrow book. Andy rode up in the elevator with me, and we talked about the weather. “It’s really getting hot!” said Andy. “I know, and very heavy,” I said. Then I remarked on the mirror at the end of the hall, and he said, “I don’t know why they put that in. When they raised the rent, they put in that mirror but they didn’t put in other things that we needed more.”

The print Andy gave Ted is very beautiful lavender and yellow green and fuschia and chrome yellow with a wonderful violent green darkening around the fuschia flowers’ edges.

Rudy and Yvonne called last night to see how things were and asked me to send some film up to them. Yvonne practically insisted I come up to see them in Maine. We talked about how much work we were getting done. I had a great feeling that I have some obligation to Yvonne and Rudy to make good use of their place. To get some good work done to show them what a wonderful thing they have done for me in letting me use their place this summer.

I have the Warhol print up now. It certainly is totally inspiring.

Thinking of doing a new (and color) version of my star print—using the variety of stars I used in Jim’s cover—I remembered my idea about white flowers bursting in the night sky. Bursting, blooming. I could do a combination of drawn flowers, engraved flowers, photographed flowers—in different colors, etc.

Maybe there could be a nude in it. —Nude in the Garden. Look up some N. Renaissance things!

I’M GOING TO FLOWER. Blossom out.

Plant works. Growing things works.

Everything humming, spinning, filigree, fine, like things were when I was on acid and it was SPRING. And I had POWER. I am in command!

It has just occurred to me that the way things looked to me on acid was a bit like Van Gogh—(though not so brutal). Even Ted’s face when I wasn’t on top of it (the acid)—looked greenish and moving (physically) when I looked at him—like Van Gogh’s green-faced self-portrait.

I think, too, of Matisse’s The Green Line. Portrait of Mme. Matisse.

Wow! Feeling better and better—I know what I’m going to do—my LSD trip turned my visual experience up a key—and I’m going to do it (my work) with much more force, pizzazz, and COLOR.

As with Jim Carroll’s cover. I did my usual thing (or another version of the star lady) and then I realized I wanted to pull out all the stops—turn it tighter and brighter and I knew how and I did.

A kind of new sense of motion. Not things just moving as units but every molecule, particle in each unit spinning and spinning and giving off sparks to make the whole thing incredibly larger than life (as large as life) and there (here) and aggressively, evilly, dazzlingly beautiful.

WOW. I would like also to do this flower, star work I’m thinking of large to take in a whole eye-span. What sort of a surface—what sort of a shape should I give that surface. JESUS. I know what I want to do for the first time in years.


Photograph of Dennis jumping, taken by Martha Diamond in Rudy Burckhardt and Yvonne Jacquette’s studio, where Dennis spent the summer of 1970. Dennis planned to use this series of photos for her “jumping lady print.” Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

June 27, 1970

Martha just came over to take pictures of me jumping, nude, for the large print I want to make. She told me that Tandy Brodey heard from Jane DeLynn that Alice Notley is in Buffalo. Gossip. But I know it’s true. Somehow, though, I’ve just shed a few angry tears and feel some despair about what I can expect in the future. The future. I can’t feel too angry at Ted as I sit down to write about it.

(Edwin Denby just called and he is taking me out for dinner. Isn’t that great—and when I was feeling so low.)

This morning, when Ted called, asking me to wire $25, he said, “Maybe I’ll come down next weekend—since you can’t come here.” (Now I know why I can’t come there.)

Still, Ted does seem to be trying to balance things out, to make amends to me. When he was here, he said, “It was great; I wish I could come down here every weekend.” And he did come.

And then he called this morning and asked me to send him some money. (I wish I could understand how a man could love two women!) Is it time for me to be more aggressive? At least more aggressively me. I’m going to turn up all my dials the way I did with the Jim Carroll cover.


July 1, 1970

New York’s new abortion law went into effect today.

Last night, I felt pretty down and lost after work, though I cheered myself with a resolution to go to Martha’s as soon as it grew dark enough to print up the photos for my new super-great silkscreen print. Then Phoebe and Lewis MacAdams called to say they would come by and get me for the Museum opening. As we turned onto 53rd Street, Phoebe told me how terribly moved she’d been by my jumping lady print at Martha’s. And I said, Wow, it’s really great to hear someone say that, it really makes me feel good, because Ted doesn’t like my work, thinks it’s too slick or something—and Lewis said that’s not true. He told me he did like your work—but that you didn’t feel so good about it. TERRIFIC UP #1.

Then we went inside the Museum, past my little friend the Russian guard (he must have been rather handsome in younger, svelter days). Right away we saw people we knew. Bernadette, Michael, Brigid Polk, John Giorno. There were drinks, great loud “jukebox” music and the garden looked beautiful. Glamorous NYC. We drifted about and Lewis was friendly and confidential, asking me how Phoebe seemed, telling me how his father arrived at a reading he gave last year with two limousines.

I had a friendly, easy chat with John Giorno, then Phoebe began to tell me how much the jumping lady print had impressed her. “I’m a little bit pregnant and pregnant women feel things in a very strong and hard way and that print made me want to cry. It was so beautiful. It’s so true,” she said, “and I’ve been dealing with shadows a lot lately.” WOW, I thought. This is what I make art works for and I told her I’ve been moved to tears by other people’s work and I’ve always wanted to make works that would move other people to tears. And then she started talking to me about Ted. “Listen,” she said, “If you are going to be Ted Berrigan’s girlfriend you’ve got to be STRONG,” and I said, “I know.” Actually I didn’t get, or remember, all she was saying—but the gist of it was—you’re great, you’re strong, you’re beautiful—know it and be it all the time. We hugged and grinned. TERRIFIC UP #2.


July 14, 1970

I’ve been in this loft almost a month now—but I do feel I’ve accomplished things, especially if I finish up this print tonight.

Feeling a little fuzzy in the head from lack of sleep and lack of food. Wow. Am I running on adrenalin now. Losing weight too, which is nice.

What I like is that I’ve called on my strength and force and power and optimism and they’re there and serving me beautifully. I feel exciting, strong, bold, daring, ready to take on anything and succeed.

One thing I remembered today that gave me greater courage … When Lee Crabtree was over, last spring, just the evening Ted came back from R.I., the time everything was so great and he’d told his mother about me, Lee analyzed my handwriting and said—you’re not as aggressive as it is in your nature to be. And Ted said, “Pretty good, Lee.” And then I felt happily aggressive and Ted and I had one of our most terrific love-makings ever. The point of remembering this is—It is in my nature to be more aggressive—so I can be plenty—and Ted probably wished I would be more aggressive more of the time. The chances are he’ll be very happy to find the new Donna.


July 26, 1970

What I did today. Woke up. Thought about Ted. Felt O.K. Felt pretty good, even. Had breakfast. Put together Ted’s hi-fi. Listened to Ted on John Giorno’s pornographic poem. It was great that he laughed on it just a little.

Went for a walk along Eighth Street to buy this notebook. Incredibly hot. Came back here. Called Tom Veitch. He can’t come over tonight. He’ll call tomorrow. Read the Sunday paper. Cried some. Started writing in here. Ate a few eggs.

Now I’m listening to the new Bob Dylan album I bought today with my Mastercharge. Dylan is singing “In the Early Morning Rain.” Wow. Ted’s song.

I have a sense today I’m listening to music with a new depth, really hearing, not being afraid of any human emotion. Older, wiser, mellower, more understanding. In the past week I’ve felt I really have come to understand what Ted was trying to tell me last year. That art is all about your feelings—not just the great ecstatic moments—all your life and feelings have value. I thought this as Ted lay in my bed and I was not happy and he was not happy but it was real life—my life. What I mean to say is—I think I’m ready to make great mature real works in a steady strong way—no longer the high thin ecstatic dreaming way of working that worked so rarely. Now it’s everything.


September 16, 1970

Sitting cross-legged on my orange bed in my new white loft with high black ceiling on Grand Street. Sounds of San Gennaro festival clean-up outside. It’s 1:30 A.M., but I’m trying not to notice I’m tired for I must learn to stay up working ’til 2 or 3 every morning now. Ted calls me a lazy-ass and he’s right. I want it soft, he says. Yes, I’ve been complaining a lot. About having a job. About having no heroes. About not being taught how to draw. But those are excuses and if I accept them as obstacles to my work and therefore fail to work, well I’ll just lose that’s all. What I want is to make great works. I’m an artist. Ted says an artist never lets money come between him and his art. For the time being I need a good deal of money so I need a job so, though I’ve just lost my job with the Paul Bacon Studio, I’m looking for a job. A job takes time, but it can’t become an excuse for not being a working, producing artist. If I need more time, I take it from sleep-time, social-time, etc. That’s all.


Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

September 20, 1970

Just back from a wonderful evening with Yvonne and Rudy. Still cringing a bit at how awkward I am saying goodnight to people but excuse myself this time since I was dazed from seeing Satyricon. Wow. I’m completely wiped out. Guess I liked it.

Yvonne served a good dinner, we talked about parents (Yvonne’s father threw Rudy out of the house), Rudy’s in-progress movie about drugs, looked at Yvonne and Rudy’s summer paintings. Both very nice. Yvonne all sky and clouds. (A terrific sky through barn window.) Rudy all deep quiet forest. Yvonne gave me a photo of a study of her fluorescent light painting in exchange for a horizon-change print by me.

Did four drawings today which I don’t dislike. All very different. Yvonne said Ted said of me, “She’s so good at small things I don’t see why she has to do anything big.”


September 28, 1970

Started a new job today at Grolier. It will be O.K. I think, but will perhaps push me more toward my own work.

Mailed a letter off to Ted. The envelope looked terrific with stickers and stamps and little drawings. I’m quite proud of it and feel it’s a good work. I should be more generous and send more letters and drawings to more people. Everything I do can be an artwork.

A kitty is watching the pen as I write this. I got two little gray kitties last Friday. They’re completely sweet and scary. I’m not sure how I feel about having them here. I’m waiting for names to come. One has blue eyes. The other looks constantly worried.

Saw the Picabia show at the Guggenheim. I want to go back.

Larry Rivers’s “non-intellectual” approach interests me—his early career. The way he went about being an artist. “Every time I become interested in my own contemporaries, I feel that I am becoming unsure of my own direction.”

What I have to do is to come to trust myself—all of me and my intuition again.


October 4, 1970

Took my jacket sketch for Brainstorms to Bobbs-Merrill today. I think it’s a little slick and commercial. They loved it.

I’ll also be doing the whole inside design, etc., as well as illustrating it with drawings. Michael said he thought the drawings I did for Spirit in the Sky were terrific.

Anne asked me to do the cover of the second World Anthology. I’ll photograph the audience at Wednesday’s reading (with luck). George’s nice design was rejected. I feel a bit like the compromising hack in this one but then it was me or some outside designer, so I guess it’s O.K. And I’ll try to make the most I can of the opportunity for the sake of the Saint Mark’s Poetry Project. Documentary—personal approach.


In 1970, Donna Dennis and Ted Berrigan created the book The Spirit in the Sky, which was never published. Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

October 7, 1970

Ted was at the reading tonight. Back from Europe I don’t know when. When I came in he had his arm around Bernadette Mayer. So what? But still ….. He was back and he hadn’t seen me. I was taking pictures for the World Anthology cover so I was walking all around. Passed him. Smiled. Knelt down, told him what I was doing—taking pictures. He rubbed my back and asked me to take pictures of him and Lewis Warsh. They read a collaboration written at Rudy’s this summer where he refers to me as half his vital organ. He left early. So did Alice.

I put on a brave front and everyone was friendly to me and now I’m home crying. Why can’t Ted play it straight?

Still, I enjoyed at the reading tonight being my own person and not somebody’s girlfriend.


October 19, 1970

I’m thinking to write, wow a dying love doesn’t go without an incredible struggle. Well there, I wrote it.

So what happened today? Well, I went to John Giorno’s party at the Gotham Book Mart and Ted comes in with a present for me—One Hundred Years of Solitude (!—why that!) by Gabriel García Márquez and Scenes Along the Road, photos of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Orlovsky, etc. Said he was sick on my birthday and had no phone. Said he wanted to come by later to pick up his Jim Dine work. O.K. I nodded. He imitated me and said, “Wow, Donna, you’re so tough. It scares me.”

Anyway, an evening of working on Michael’s drawings shot and he never came by anyway, goddammit. I can’t let that happen again. These drawings must be good and they must be done! Maybe I take the phone off the hook tomorrow. To feel free of Ted might feel great!

And horrible.

Next Monday I sit for Alex Katz. I feel so much more that I have a community now. Everyone’s being great and things keep happening.


December 11–12, 1970

I am in one of the great, opening up, gaining ground times of my life. Comparable to my freshman year in college. Hard, painful, scary, exciting and so full of hope and faith. I’m learning to know myself all over again, better than I ever have. I’m coming to terms with myself in a way that can open up the future to be what I want it to be. Anne wrote in the book she gave me the other night, ”May all your wishes come true!” They may! The way is opening up for that to happen. And there is less and less reason, with every new day, for me not to go where I want to go, do what I want to do. I’m learning again to trust my hunches and my intuition. I knew about all I’m learning now, but I didn’t really understand it. I only knew what I wanted and what I feared. But not why. Now I’m gaining clarity every day.

What I am coming to understand is what it is to be a woman in this world. What it is now and what it can be and why.

I’m learning how women are their own worst enemy because they learn not to believe in their powers. Power is what I’m beginning to feel. I’m reading Betty Freidan’s [sic] The Feminine Mystique. It’s changing my life (or shaping that change) at a time when I am open and free to change in a major way. To GROW.


February 14, 1971

Lucy Lippard came to see my works today. Yvonne Burckhardt had recommended my work to her very highly, for an all-woman show at the Larry Aldrich Museum.

I’m not sure what she thought. She stood too close, I thought, and looked at each piece for a long time. Especially the one with mirrors slanted in. She said she thought the one with lightning and lights worked very nicely. I was sorry she could not see them at night. They really look 100 percent better then. I’m beginning to be sorry that I didn’t buy window shades that really block out the light.

Martha and Denise Green and I went to the Women’s Liberation Center to attend a meeting on How to Start a Consciousness-Raising Group. There was not much real information given out and a lot of random discussion but I’m very excited at the idea of forming a group.

Lucy Lippard also holds some kind of artist’s group and is also compiling a file of women artists.

This all seems terrific to me. Here finally is a chance to meet and discuss with other artists, find out about opportunities for exhibition, etc.


Courtesy of Donna Dennis.

February 20, 1971 (early A.M.)

Yvonne and I have talked of interior spaces in the art of women (her term). I’m rethinking my works and everyone else’s. I have been continually interested in interior spaces.

Interior space has nothing to do with Renaissance space which was made by men—and which was made so that there was a place to put the people. Yvonne sees interior space as being empty and so do I. That is why, of course, I did not want my mirrors to be big enough to reflect anyone, or anything, except perhaps a floor or ceiling, which showed more emptiness. I’m fascinated by an empty storefront on 3rd Avenue. All the interior surfaces of the display case are mirror surfaces.

I’m becoming very sensitive to older buildings. Their vulnerability. Like Atget. I want to take photographs and record their existence and their last days. They are very beautiful and very sad. I like Walker Evans front-on approach to buildings. That is my natural approach too, but without seeing him I might not have dared.


Donna Dennis is a sculptor known for her large-scale installations and public art inspired by American vernacular architecture. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, the Neuberger Museum of Art, and SculptureCenter, among other institutions.

Excerpts from Donna’s journals from 1968 to 1982, which have been coedited with Nicole Miller, will be published by Bamberger Books in late 2023; a monograph of her work is forthcoming from the Monacelli Press in March 2023.