This untitled (1953) work comes from one of the notebooks and sketchbooks that Betty Parsons filled over the course of her career, its edge bearing the line of holes characteristic of spiral binding. These sketchbooks were Parsons’s constant companions throughout her travels and played a fundamental part in her artmaking practice. As art historian Lisa Peters has observed, her sketchbooks “provided a forum for Parsons to work out her visual ideas, reflect on her experiences, summon memories, and capture emotions.”
Influenced by the spontaneity and verve of the New York School and the emotive, gestural brushwork of Color Field Painting, Parsons developed her own unique mode of abstraction, explaining that she was interested not in capturing what something “looked like,” but rather “what it made me feel.” This approach can be seen in this untitled work, which boasts bold colors, biomorphic shapes, and dynamic brushstrokes. The composition of island-like forms on a near-monochromatic background seen here ultimately emerges as a recurring visual motif throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Parsons continued to experiment with abstraction and refine her approach to color as she reaffirmed her commitment to capturing what she referred to as the “sheer energy” of a scene or composition.