Idaho Arts Quarterly » Cover Artist

Virgina DeFoggi

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Virginia, or Jinny as most people call her, does not think of her work as art-a theme she kept returning to as we spoke in her home in Boise's North End one rainy winter day. But to look at her work, her artist's resume, her home and her life you could not come to any other conclusion that she is indeed an artist. Being an artist is a state of mind, and whether she likes it or not, she is one.

Jinny was born and grew up in Pocatello. One of a rare number of true Idaho natives, she says she has spent a cumulative total of less than three of her 67 years outside of the state. With a B.A. in Fine Arts from Idaho State University she feels she was lucky to have five real teachers in her education, two of which taught her art. Perhaps they inspired her to pursue teaching. After getting a teaching certificate she and her husband moved to Boise in 1978.

In recent years she is perhaps more known locally for her work sewing costumes for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and the Costume Shop. Her favorite creative outlet has been the Idaho Peace Quilt project, a group of quilters who for years have produced themed biographical quilts given to individuals agreed upon by the group.

"I've never thought of myself as an artist," she says. "I've thought of myself as a teacher." She paused and looked out the window streaked with rain in contemplation then added, "I'm a dilettante."

Despite such self-depreciation of her artistic talents, DeFoggi was selected last fall as one of 30 artists for the Boise Art Museum's Triennial exhibition. She had no intentions, however, of entering the juried competition. Her husband Dennis, who she says must do art every day or he goes crazy, entered several of her drawings in the competition. Even after four of her six works were selected, she still claims they are not art.

"I consider them doodles," she says. "When I have approached art in the past I've done realistic art ... always. I thought abstract art had to be totally intellectual."

She doesn't exactly remember when she began doing her "doodles" but they were a way to pass the time while watching television.

"I put a line down in the middle of a page and it grows," she says. "It's like how I crochet hats. I begin in the middle and work outwards."

Her stream of consciousness pieces invoke an M.C. Escher-esque quality in the boldness of their black and white patterns. Unlike Escher, however, there is no rhyme or reason for the layout. Designs evaporate as the mind seeks their repetitive counterparts in other parts of the page.

Staring at her work can invoke meditative qualities; she creates the work for much the same reasons.

"If I get into drawing them I do them until I get it done," she says. But while she can be compulsive about drawing, she has gone for a whole year without drawing anything.

After shows with her husband, Dennis DeFoggi, at ISU in 2001 and at the Rhythmite Gallery in Walla Walla, Washington in 2004, her works have been recognized and accepted as worthy art. Now with acceptance into the BAM Triennial, she cannot deny that her works are more than mere doodles.

With a front porch full of seashell wind chimes and a house adorned with her own art, her husband's and friends' works, the creaks and groans outline a lifetime of objects. Enjoying a cup of coffee, discussing her life and her work, we enjoyed each other's company as we leafed through page after page of unrepeated patterns.

-Bingo Barnes