Dawn DeDeaux is a multi-media, digital, and conceptual artist based in New Orleans.
Dawn Ader DeDeaux has long been considered by many art critics to be a pioneer in synchronized, multi-installation, digital new media art as well as innovations melding sculpture and a variety of media, including Lucite, photography, and paper. In works such as The Face of God, Drive-by Shooting, and Soul Shadows: Warrior Myths, her iconic media-driven work is complex, layered, and unsettling, with razor-sharp social consciousness that explores human suffering, death and renewal, the environment, urban violence, and the plight of young, inner-city African American males abandoned to crime and prison.
DeDeaux, a pioneer of new media art, grew up on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans next door to the Degas House, where the famed impressionist artist Edgar Degas, then a pioneer of the new art of his generation, lived and painted in the fall and winter of 1872 and 1873 while visiting relatives of his New Orleans-born mother.
Born in New Orleans on June 28, 1952, DeDeaux became interested in art early in life. “As a child I lost a brother and a sister to disease and observed its classic destruction of our family,” she said. “Early grief and loss led me on a path aiming to reconcile love, suffering and spirit. I turned to art as a tool for investigation, and as a refuge for the heart.” Her first art lessons began at the age of thirteen with New York painter Laura Adams, who was visiting New Orleans and renting a room at the home of DeDeaux’s grandmother. DeDeaux later continued her art studies at the University of Colorado, Tulane University’s Newcomb School, and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Because of her interest in conceptual art, she also studied mass communication theory at Loyola University in New Orleans and advanced digital technology at the University of New Orleans.
DeDeaux cites many artists as influences, a list as complex as her art. She credits German artist Anslem Kiefer “for his aesthetic and technical mastery and the work’s poignant, haunting resonance”; Mark Rothko “for his ability to exceed the boundaries of canvas towards the creation of sacred atmospheric space”; and Andy Warhol “intellectually and conceptually” for his reflections “upon mass replications of products, images, news, celebrity and the definition of art itself.” She also is inspired by “ritual architecture, belonging to all historical periods” such as Cuma, the home of ancient oracle Sybil in Italy, and the ruins and tombs of Egypt. “Yet, the actual content of my work,” she contends, “is mostly influenced by writers and philosophers dedicated to the mysteries of the human condition, perhaps explaining why my work is so often seeded in narrative and sequentially structured. And finally, every few years I return to start anew before the greatest artist, Mother Nature, and cyclically convey this humble encounter in phases of my art.”
Though New Orleans has always been DeDeaux’s home, she often travels extensively to develop new work. Those travels have taken her to New York City; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Taos, New Mexico; Vancouver, Canada; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; and Cairo, Egypt.
DeDeaux has received numerous honors for her art. In 1996 the International Olympics Cultural Committee selected DeDeaux as one of the eight most important artists working in the American South. With that honor came the premier of her multimedia installation The Face of God at the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia. The following year, the American Academy in Rome awarded her a Prix de Rome as a Knight Foundation Visiting Southern Artist. In subsequent years, she also has received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Public Art grant; a National Endowment for the Arts InterARTS grant; a Panasonic Media Arts Award; a Montage 93 Selection for Work best Merging Art and Technology; a HarvestWorks Media Arts Award; and grants from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Louisiana Endowment for Humanities, the Institute for Mental Hygiene, and the Center for Bioenvironmental Research. DeDeaux also likes to point out that she was the winner of the 1976 demolition derby in the New Orleans Superdome as the only female contestant in a field of thirty-five drivers.
DeDeaux has participated in numerous juried shows at major institutions throughout the United States, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City; the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California; the Baltimore Museum of Contemporary Art in Maryland; the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut; and the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the New Orleans international biennales Prospect.1 and Prospect.2, among others.
Her work can be found in scores of public and private collections, including the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Collection in New Orleans; the Fischbach Collection in New York City; the Weisman Foundation Collection in Los Angeles, California; the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California; the Historic New Orleans Collection; the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii; the Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge; and the Lord and Taylor Collection in New York City.
In addition to creating art, DeDeaux is a cofounder of the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, established in 1976, and the founding editor-in-chief of the New Orleans Museum of Art’s award-winning periodical Arts Quarterly, where she served from 1976 to 1984. She also has been active in arts education programs in New Orleans, most notably the creation of a comprehensive art program for inmates at Orleans Parish Prison.