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Rita Deanin Abbey


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Rita Deanin Abbey is an Emeritus Professor of Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

She taught drawing, painting, and color theory and innovated interdisciplinary courses with the sciences at UNLV from 1965 to 1987. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Marjorie Barrick Museum and the Palm Springs Desert Museum (presently Palm Springs Art Museum), Palm Springs, CA collaborated to present the Rita Deanin Abbey 35 Year Retrospective, which was held February 16–March 5, 1988 at UNLV and March 25–June 5, 1988 at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Abbey received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1952 and her Master of Arts degree in 1954 from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. She also studied at Goddard College, Plainfield, VT; the Art Student’s League, Woodstock, NY; the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, Provincetown, MA; and the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA. She was an artist in residence in the studios of Toshi Yoshida, Tokyo, Japan; John Killmaster, Boise, ID; Methow Iron Works, Twisp, WA; Tamarind Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ; Shidoni Foundry, Tesuque, NM; Bill Weaver Studio, Chupadero, NM; Savoy Studios, Portland, OR; and Carlson & Co., San Fernando, CA.

Abbey, who works in the areas of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, porcelain enamel fired on steel, stained-glass, and computer art, has had 60 individual exhibitions and has participated in over 160 national and international group exhibitions. She is represented in private and public collections in the United States, the Middle East, Europe, and South America.

Abbey has published several articles in journals, and five books: Rivertrip, Northland Press, Flagstaff, AZ, 1977; Art and Geology: Expressive Aspects of the Desert, Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, UT, 1986 (co-authored by G. William Fiero); the Rita Deanin Abbey Rio Grande Series, Gan Or, Las Vegas, NV, 1996; In Praise of Bristlecone Pines, The Artists' Press, Johannesburg (presently located in White River), South Africa, 2000; Isaiah Stained-Glass Windows, Gan Or, Las Vegas, NV, 2002; Seeds Yet Ever Secret, Poems and Images, Gan Or, Las Vegas, NV, 2013. She has been the recipient of many commissions and grants and has won several awards, including the Bicentennial Commission for the State of Nevada, 1976; the Governor’s Seventh Annual Visual Arts Award for the State of Nevada, 1986; and the Chairman's Award of Excellence at the 1987 International Exhibition of Enamelling Art, Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, Japan. Abbey was invited by the Gallery Association of New York State to exhibit four of her works in its 1989–1991 traveling exhibition, Color and Image: Recent American Enamels. In 1992, the Markus Galleries, Las Vegas, NV, and the Nevada Symphony presented an exhibition of art by Abbey, which inspired Virko Baley’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The world premiere performance of the concerto was held in 1993 at the National Opera House, Kiev, Ukraine. In 1993, Abbey constructed Spirit Tower, a cor-ten steel sculpture (20 ft., 11 tons), which was commissioned by the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District for the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center. Abbey was invited by the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to lecture on Art and Geology at San Francisco State University for the 75th Annual Meeting, on June 19–24, 1994. She was one of three artists from the United States invited to participate in the exhibition, Enamel Today, at Villa am Aabach, Uster, Switzerland, June–July, 1995. Additionally in 1995, Abbey completed a series of cast bronze sculptures at Shidoni Foundry, Tesuque, New Mexico. Commissioned in 1998, Abbey completed the Isaiah Stained-Glass Windows in 2000; sixteen 10 ft. x 2 ft. stained-glass windows for the main sanctuary of Temple Beth Sholom, Las Vegas, NV. Also in 2000, she completed Holocaust, a stainless steel sculpture (14 ft. 3 in., 4.5 tons), installed in Las Vegas, NV. In 2003 her bronze sculpture, Ner Tamid, was installed in Temple Adat Ami, Las Vegas, NV. Snakewash, a cor-ten steel ground sculpture (62 ft.), was completed in November 2003. Abbey fabricated steel sculptures and cast small and large bronzes from 2004 through the present. In 2006 she completed and installed Guardian of All Directions, a stainless steel sculpture (14 ft., 1.5 tons). During March 2008, Women’s History Month, Abbey was recognized for her contributions to the Arts by Mayor Goodman and Members of the Las Vegas City Council. Hidden Pass, a 2-inch steel plate sculpture (16 x 28 ft. 8 in. x 13 ft. 3 in., 22 tons), was installed in 2010. Between July 16 ­– December 23, 2011, Abbey exhibited in Blast from the Past. ‘60s & ‘70s Geometric Abstraction at Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California. The City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, Las Vegas Arts Commission presented Abbey the Lifetime Achievement Award for Exellence in the Arts on May 25, 2012. Balanced Arc, an outdoor bronze sculpture (8 ft. 8 in. x 9 ft. x 7 ft. 4 in., 1600 lbs.), completed in 2012, was installed in April 2013. The Western Museums Association 2014 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, NV, toured The Art of Rita Deanin Abbey at the Desert Space Museum October 5, 2014. Abbey participated in the fall group exhibition Macrocosm/Microcosm: Abstract Expressionism in the American Southwest at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, October 2, 2014-January 4, 2015. Recent Acquisitions, includes Abbey's artwork, in the Marjorie Barrick Museum, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, June 19 - September 19, 2015. Currently, Abbey is working on new sculptures, paintings, and enamels.