Mavis Pusey Biography

Mavis Pusey





African-American artist Mavis Pusey was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 17, 1928, and grew up in the small rural village of Retreat. Her aunt taught her to sew and by the age of nine Mavis was designing and making her own clothes. Wanting to study fashion in America, left Jamaica at the age of eighteen in the hopes of studying at the Traphagen School of Fashion, but costs were prohibitive despite being employed as a seamstress for a couture wedding gown company.


Mavis Pusey then set her sights on the Arts Students' League in New York. Again aiming to study fashion, she wa exposed to a variety of art mediums and techniques and before long her interest switched to printmaking. She studied both painting and printmaking under Will Barnet who encouraged her study of Modern art, a pivotal discovery for Pusey. After four years of immersion in the ASL, immigration officers informed her that her student visa had expired and she moved to London to live with her brothers, taking a job as a pattern maker for Singer while working on renewing her passport. In 1968 she traveled to Paris to continue her studies, and in 1968 she was given her first solo exhibition at the Galerie Louis Soulanges. As she worked on renewing her U.S. visa she worked at the Birgit Skiöld Print Workshop on Charlotte Street in London, and by 1969 she was back in New York and then Virginia, where she enrolled in Mary Baldwin College, receiving her B.A. Between 1969 and 1972, Pusey worked at the Robert Blackburn Workshop and later at the New School for Social Research in New York. She exhibited with Louis Soulanges in Paris, Curwen Gallery in London and Associated American Artists in New York.


In 1988, after sixteen years and a determined but losing battle to keep her artist’s loft in New York, she found herself adrift. She instructed her real estate agent to find her a home “about two hours outside of Washington.” She settled on a cottage in Orange County, Virginia. “My friends thought I was nutty. I left New York to go live in the bush.” Her work has been exhibited internationally and she taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Drew University, New Jersey; and the New School for Social Research, New York. She is affiliated with Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors in New York; the National Museum of Women in the Arts; and the Visual Artists and Galleries Association.


Pusey attended the Art Students League on a tuition grant from the Ford Foundation in 1964. Other scholarships, grants and awards include: Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, 1972 and 1973; the United Negro College Fund in 1977; Staten Island Museum tour Award in 1975; Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, 1997; Area IV Advisory Panelist, Virginia Commission for the Arts, 1997, to name a few. Her work was handled by the Associated American Artists, New York; Curwen Gallery, London; Roads Gallery, New York and Louis Soulanges, Paris. Her works are in numerous private and public collections.


Pusey exhibited at the Rainbow Art Foundation, and was included in numerous major exhibitions including the seminal "Contemporary Black Artists in America" held at the Whitney in 1971 and her work is included in the new Smithsonian African-American Museum in Washington, DC. and in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where her work was exhibited in "Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today" in January of 2018. Mavis Pusey died in Falmouth, Virginia on April 20, 2019.