Dorothea Rockburne, Shadowed Perimeter, 2004 – 2008, Edition 63/70. Etching and silkscreen on Somerset paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.

Marie Tavroges Stilkind, Dorothea Rockburne, ca. 1952. Vintage gelatin silver print. Collection of Black  Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Marie Tavroges Stilkind

Dorothea Rockburne (Student 1950-1954) (b.1932)

Dorothea Rockburne arrived at Black Mountain College in 1950, after studying painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. While at Black Mountain, Rockburne became interested in finding mathematics in nature, with inspiration from math and physics professor Max Dehn. On studying under Dehn she says, “I realized I liked to read things I couldn’t understand. I found that it opened doors… It was quite the experience.”

Rockburne participated in Elizabeth and Pete Jennerjahn’s Light Sound Movement workshops, noting that they were inspirational and “very feisty.” She took dance courses with Merce Cunningham, photography with Hazel Larsen Archer (in whose class she developed close friendships with Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg), and painting with Franz Kline and Jack Tworkov. It was Kline who convinced Rockburne to start working with color, rather than black and white.

At Black Mountain, Rockburne met her first husband and gave birth to a daughter. The couple raised her at the college for the first few years of her life. However, Rockburne found the environment, especially Charles Olson, sexist and eventually she and her daughter left for New York City. She had her first solo exhibition in 1958, and, though it was positively received by the critics, Rockburne was disappointed with the results and did not exhibit again for over a decade. During this time she shifted her emphasis to dance and performance and was part of the scene at the Judson Dance Theater. Currently, Rockburne’s paintings are in museum collections around the country, and she continues to show new work today. In 2013/2014 she had a solo exhibition, Dorothea Rockburne: Drawing Which Makes Itself, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in 2018/2019 she had a solo exhibition at Dia:Beacon.