IN 1981, the former Deacon Gallery on Castle Street exhibited her work. The Wilmington-based St. Thomas
Celebration of the Arts selected Gillespie as their featured artist in 1982. “Dorothy Gillespie: Reflections” was
exhibited at CAM from 2005-06 and her piece “Beanstalk: Colorfalls I” is on permanent display at Thalian Hall.
Today, the CAM courtyard is dotted with towering totems painted in a vibrant base coat of turquoise and
parakeet with calculated curls in geometric colors of fuchsia, red and azure. The smaller sunburst sculptures
at the Arboretum seem to hover and grow from the pine straw. Gillespie’s work takes a traditional view of art
into a three-dimensional body; even the paneled artwork possesses a cohesive personality all its own.
“It’s bright, colorful and playful,” says Heather Wilson, CAM’s deputy director of communications. “They
bring a brightness of spirit to the museum, in the courtyard where they are displayed, but also inside the
museum where you can see them through the windows in the café.”
Much like her work, a word frequently used to describe Gillespie is vibrant. Hawk recalls in the 1950s
Gillespie and her husband, Bernard Israel, owned a nightclub that served as a gallery. Thinking of neon lights
or the pulse of a beat then seeing Gillespie’s work seems to connect. There’s fun, and bursting patterns, but
sometimes dark curves and mystery.
“Someone once said her art was like a lore in which no one got hurt,” Rivenbark says. “There’s such
vibrancy, activity and energy.”
Above: Dorothy Gillespie’s materials and works fill her studio in the Catskills of New York in 2020.
Opposite, from top: Created after a hurricane destroyed her first installation in the same location, 720 of
Gillespie’s starbursts comprise “Celestial Joy” in an Orlando, Florida, parking garage. Gillespie works on
a piece in her New York City studio in 2002.
“I think I have had
Sometimes I have
ecstasy while I’m
working. I feel very
fortunate to have
that. That means
I’m totally in touch
with the glorious
things when I’m
painting. I’ve had
a fabulous life.”
WBM january 2021
PHOTOS COURTESY GARY ISRAEL