Besides being a prominent and decorated artist in her own right, Dorothy Gillespie has been instrumental in opening up art as a viable career for women through her involvement with the Women’s Art Movement and related activities throughout her long career. Born in 1920 and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, she went to art school at a time when such a career choice for young women was frowned upon. She earned her degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art and then, in 1943, moved to New York City to pursue a career as an artist. She also married and raised three children while following her career.
Ms. Gillespie was the first to create a college course about surviving with integrity in the art world. She also began Radford University’s permanent art collection by driving an “art van” around to prominent artists’ studios to collect pieces. She and her family traveled extensively, firing an interest in archaeology with its elements of buried memory and discovery.
In a career spanning over fifty years, Ms. Gillespie has worked in many media, one evolving into another. In her movement from early realism to abstract work reflecting her deepest feelings, she has painted, worked extensively with paper, wood and plastics, and enameled aluminum. She has produced paintings, sculpture, environments, murals, both indoor and outdoor installations, multimedia experiential exhibits, limited editions and even jewelry. Much of her work owes its form to her work and relationship to paper as a medium. Her pieces range from quite small to installations spanning over 150 feet.
Being well known and internationally displayed led to commission work, which in turn led to coaching and teaching young artists as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow at Lehigh University and later as a Distinguished Professor at Radford University. Her work is in over 200 museum, corporate, and private collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Cleveland Ballet, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Frankfurt Museum, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
For all of her accomplishments, Ms. Gillespie has this to say about her art, “My work has no hidden stuff that needs to be explained. It simply is – clever or otherwise.” Francis Martin Jr., University of Central Florida art professor had this to say about her in a 1995 article, “Dorothy Gillespie is a woman of extraordinary dimensions. To know her is to be transported instantly and totally to a domain of infinite and fearless creative energy. She is unique and authentic. She is an artist rich with vision. To view her exhilarating work is to experience the magic of art.”