Dorothy E. Wack, (1920 – 2009), born Dorothy Emily Chaffee in El Paso, Tx. mother Emily Dorothy Esterbrook, father Charles Livingston Wesley Chaffee.
After her parents divorced in the late 1920s, her mother moved the family to NYC. When the Depression hit, her mother being a single mother with 4 children, was unable to support her family, and they moved to Taos, NM.
Times were very hard for her family in Taos too, and they often went hungry. Dorothy from an early age showed artistic talent, and was greatly influenced by living in the burgeoning artist capital of Taos in the early 1930s. Being a resourceful young teenager with beautiful flaming red hair, she stood out. Needing to earn money to help support her family, she sought artists in the community willing to teach her. Two elder members of the disbanded Taos Society of Artists, Joseph Henry Sharp and Eanger Irving Couse, mentored her. With these mature artists’ help, she quickly learned enough to make money by painting the plaza storefront windows with advertising and holiday themes. Their influence can be seen in her distinctive portrait style. Andrew Dasburg mentored her as well as groups of other young artists who eventually came to be known as "Taos Moderns." His influence can be seen in her still-lifes, and early abstracts, especially in her color choices and composition.
As she matured, she continued to hone her craft and worked at a gift shop in Taos plaza, where she developed business acumen. After World War Two, she married William Paul Wack. They moved to Brownsville Tx. and owned and operated a successful Southwestern gift shop and restaurant. They never had children. She was an active member of the Brownsville Art League for nearly two decades, serving on many committees, and for a period as president. She was passionate in her efforts to promote the League's art shows and exhibits ensuring the League artists had opportunities to show and sell their work. A much-loved painting teacher and mentor, she influenced generations of artists. Soon after being unexpectedly widowed in 1971, within weeks she was told she had cancer and had six months to live. This prompted her to move to Long Beach to be near her brothers. Her cancer miraculously went into remission. She joined the Long Beach Art League and continued to paint and teach for another 30 years.
A prolific painter, she treasured her paintings and rarely was willing to part with any, her personal collection totaled over 130 paintings at her passing.
Her preferred medium was oil on canvas. Dorothy specialized in ethnic Americana portraits and was commissioned to paint many portraits. Over the years, as her artistic talents evolved and styles changed, she experimented with cubism, abstract, mixed media collages, landscapes, cityscapes, and botanicals. She often won first place and Best in Show for lifelike portraits and realistic complex still-lifes.
Note: she was often known to buy used paintings for their frames and canvases, which she would then paint over, so the foundations of her works are not always indicative of when they were painted, and often, upon examination, they will be shown to be an overpainted painting, or even two-sided paintings, often mounted in non-period frames. Despite failing eyesight and crippling arthritis, she painted into her 80s. If asked what she did for a living, she proudly responded, “I am an artist”.