mavis pusey was able to assemble, deconstruct and be reborn

May 2, 2019

Jamaican-born artist Mavis Pusey’s geometric abstraction was often inspired by Manhattan architecture and its endless cycle of assembly, deconstruction, rebirth…


Mavis Pusey was trained in the arts from a young age. She was born on September 17th, 1928 in a rural village of Kingston, Jamaica called Retreat. Thanks to an aunt of hers who taught her to sew, by the age of nine she began making her own clothes. After falling deeply in love with fashion Pusey made a plan to move to America someday to pursue the craft. In the 1940’s when she was eighteen, Mavis made good on her promise to herself and moved to New York for the famous Art Student’s League in Manhattan on a scholarship from the Ford Foundation. She secured her spot by sewing couture wedding gowns.

Plan in place and assembly in order. 


In New York, Pusey became a mentee of American painter and printmaker Will Barnet. Continuing on her studies, she worked at Birgit Schold Workshop in London, then back to New York and then completed her studies in Virginia with a B.A. from Mary Baldwin College. In her studies she outgrew fashion focusing in other aspects of the arts.

My work consists of geometrical forms in a variety of geometrical configurations. These forms are based on buildings around the Manhattan area. I am inspired by the energy and the beat of the construction and demolition of these buildings—the tempo and movement mold into a synthesis and, for me, become another aesthetic of abstraction.” – Mavis Pusey

Pusey and her art became one. Her career shapeshifting into her interpretation of New York- she would build, shed, and rebuild herself.

In 1988 she lost her artist’s loft in New York and with it security in New York. Her once dream of being a fashion designer was no more, her stable residence in New York gone, and Pusey decided to move to a cottage in Orange County, Virginia. Of this time she said, “My friends thought I was nutty. I left New York to go live in a bush.”

Plans unraveled, assembly deconstructed.


Mavis Pusey passed away on April 20th in Falmouth, VA at the age of 90. She is remembered as a leading abstractionist, innovative painter and printmaker. She lived a complete circle learning along the way that there is no rebirth before deconstruction and no deconstruction without the structure of assembly. Wherever you are now, maybe there is no distinction between the three. Ms. Pusey’s legacy is reborn not only through her art but through her daughter, Yvonne Palmer, and caretaker, Yvette Ashton.

Photo courtesy of The Studio Museum in Harlem

Photo courtesy of The Studio Museum in Harlem