Rutgers Mourns Artist, Professor Denyse Thomasos: Services Set for Friday, July 27

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Denyse Thomasos in 2006

Professor Denyse Thomasos, an internationally recognized artist who taught painting, drawing and print-making, died suddenly on July 19. She was 47. She had taught at Rutgers University, Newark, since 1995 in the Arts, Culture and Media Department (formerly Visual & Performing Arts Department). Prof. Thomasos, a resident of New York, is survived by her husband Samein Priester, and their 25-month-old daughter, Syann; her mother, Jennie Thomasos, and her sisters, Gail Thomasos Luciano and  Lisa Thomasos. 

Services will be held Friday, July 27, at 10 a.m., St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street, New York, 212-226-8075.

Prof. Thomasos’s works had been shown both nationally and internationally, including several solo exhibitions.  Her works had been reviewed in many of the major national and international art periodicals including ArtForum, Art in America, Canadian Art, the Globe and Mail and New York Times. Over her too-short career she won more than 40 awards and numerous grants, including fellowships from the Guggenheim , the New York Foundation for the Arts and PEW; Bellagio, Yaddo and MacDowell Colony residencies; the Joan Mitchell Award; and a number of Canada Council project grants.  She was recently awarded an art residency at the internationally renowned Bogliasco in Genoa, Italy.

In an announcement to the Rutgers-Newark campus,  Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle stated, “We are all stunned and saddened by this tragic loss,” noting that Prof. Thomasos  was a ”uniquely gifted artist and teacher, who won many prestigious national and international awards and exhibited in galleries and museums throughout North America and abroad... The Rutgers-Newark community mourns her passing and our hearts go out to her family during this most difficult time.”

Rutgers-Newark will hold a memorial service for Prof. Thomasos in the fall, and the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto will present a memorial show of Prof. Thomasos’s work in November, the month during which she was scheduled for a show at the gallery.

A major staple of the gallery since her first show in 1998, Prof. Thomasos was known for her striking architectural structures which narrated a history of the psychological impact on people of color from slavery, and interwove that history with urban freneticy and pattern veering on abstraction. Travel was a major element in her life and work, with Prof. Thomasos steering her interest in color, line, and space towards the homes and harbors she discovered on her adventures to Africa, China, India, and South America.

Prof. Thomasos received her BA in painting and art history from the University of Toronto in 1987. She earned the MFA in painting and sculpture at Yale University in 1989. Her first solo exhibition was in 1995 at Alpha Gallery in Boston. She taught at Temple for five years before coming to Rutgers in 1995. At Rutgers she was involved in many activities, including serving on the board of the Paul Robeson Campus Center Galleries.

In 1997 she began showing her work with the Lennon, Weinberg gallery in New York, the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto and The Brand New Gallery (Milan).  One of her paintings, “Yves Bleu,” is currently on view at Lennon, Weinberg, in the group exhibition The Early Show, through Aug. 17.

Lennon, Weinberg gallery owner Jill Weinberg Adams told Hyperallergic magazine: “Denyse was an exceptionally strong-willed person. She set goals for herself with determination, and achieved them all — travel, professional recognition, family — and never did less than challenge herself to make her paintings bigger, stronger, more complex and filled with meaning. Her sudden death at such a young age is a great loss, for her family most of all, her community at Rutgers, her students and the large and appreciative audience for her work.”

Prof. Thomasos was born in 1964 in Trindad. Her family moved to Canada in 1970, and she grew up in Mississauga, Ontario. She remained in the U.S. after completing her MFA at Yale.