The Artist Birthday Series

Dwinell Grant

After five months, he left the National Academy and in 1935 became an instructor in art and director of dramatics at Wittenberg College in Ohio. By this time, Grant’s paintings were nonobjective, and he had come to believe that nonobjectivism “is a part of the earth itself. … In creating it we do not say something about something else, but rather we produce a rhythm which is a part of nature’s rhythm and just as deep and fundamental as a heartbeat, a thunderstorm, the sequence of day and night or the growth of a girl into womanhood. . . . Nature is not something to be commented on, it is something to be.


At Wittenberg, Grant had little time to paint, however his work with the drama department provided an outlet for his innovative ideas. For an experimental, symphonic drama, Grant designed and built a large, nonobjective construction, painted it gray, then lit it with colored lights controlled by dimmer switches. By varying the intensity of the lights, he found he could change the color, and therefore the mood, of the dramatic presentation. Although Grant’s avant-garde ideas soon brought him criticism at Wittenberg, his friends at the Dayton Art Institute encouraged his work, and suggested he write to Hilla Rebay at the Guggenheim Foundation for support.

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