Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) presents a selection of works by artist Moira Dryer (b. 1957, Toronto, Ontario; d. 1992, New York, New York) in conjunction with the major exhibition of Dryer’s early work at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, entitled Moira Dryer: Back in Business. Both exhibitions are curated by Lily Siegel and serve to reposition Dryer as one of the most significant artists of her generation.

Photograph of notebook page from the artist’s archives

The exhibition title, Yours for the Asking, was borrowed from a newspaper clipping found in Moira Dryer’s studio notebooks. Her composition books, full of notes, clippings from newspapers, glossy magazines, photographs, and drawings, show an acute attention to language. Much of the text found in these notebooks appear as titles of individual works. The title of this exhibition was selected in recognition of her generosity, confidence, and singular voice.

“When Dryer’s friends, family, acquaintances speak of her, it is of a generous, charismatic, strong, and driven woman. She was a singular talent. For this exhibition, Yours for the Asking, I wanted to reflect those sentiments through the title. All you have to do is ask; the squeaky wheel gets the grease; open book; easily attainable.”


– Lily Siegel, Curator

The Power of Suggestion, 1991
Casein on wood

46 x 48 and 23 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 10 1/4 inches
Private collection

Yours for the Asking provides an intimate look at the artist’s practice through works given as gifts to, or purchased by, friends and family, many never previously shown publicly. The Power of Suggestion features impressions of the artist’s fingerprint along the edge of the panel and splotches of casein paint applied using a baster.



Untitled, 1990
Oil on wood
94 x 42 inches
Courtesy of John S. Morawetz

Moira Dryer signed and dated every work and included detailed notes on the back specifying hanging instructions such as direction, height, and spacing of panels. Untitled (1992) is one of the final paintings left in Dryer’s studio at the time of her death and is not signed nor dated on the back. Although the painting appears finished the lack of a signature and date on the back suggests that Dryer may still have been working through the piece.



Green #129, 1985
Casein on wood
20 1/4 x 18 1/4 inches
Courtesy of James C. McKinley Jr.

This work, inscribed with “FOR JIMMY” on the back, is an early example of Dryer’s interest in color, space, and illusion specifically in the impeccable handling of her materials.



Untitled, c. 1980
Painting on wood
8 3/4 x 10 inches
Loaned by Rachel Klein and Lyle Rexer

Untitled was completed in 1980 while Dryer pursued her undergraduate studies at the School of Visual Art, New York. This work closely resembles that of her late husband Victor Alzamora. Both were painting students at SVA. 




Left: Untitled, 1988
Gouache on paper

14 x 10 inches
Collection of Klaus Ottmann and Leslie Tonkonow

Right: Untitled, 1982
Painting on wood
20 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches
Courtesy of Pegeen and David Rubinstein



Target, 1987-88
Casein wash on paper and collage, artist’s frame
Diameter: 24 inches
Private collection



Omo Norma Kamali suit worn by Moira Dryer at her opening at the Mary Boone Gallery, 1990 or 1992.
Courtesy of Nancy Morawetz

This suit was worn by Dryer to one of her first major gallery openings. It is included in the exhibition to give a sense of intimacy despite the artist’s long absence. She is remembered for her charisma, style, and outsized presence.



Untitled, 1991
Casein on wood and metal
46 x 48 and 17 x 13 x 7 inches
Courtesy of James C. McKinley Jr.

Untitled (1991) incorporates a seed-spreader found on James McKinley’s family farm. The green field of paint is punctuated by Dryer’s signature blotches referencing the seeding of the land and the artist’s growing cancer.


Untitled, 1991
Casein on wood, metal, and fabric
17 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches
Courtesy of Pegeen and David Rubinstein

Untitled (1991) references Dryer’s sense of humor and playfulness. She hints towards more dimensionality by including a card drawer pull in the center of the work, implying that there is more within.


Ephemera from the artist’s archive.

Dryer’s archive includes hundreds of postcards from her travels, most notably significant works of art from the Renaissance and landscapes of locations that were important to her. The references regularly appear in her work in subtle and clever ways. 



Untitled, nd   
Casein on wood and metal
Diameter: 43 inches
Courtesy of the estate of Moira Dryer 



Untitled, 1983
Painting on wood
61 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches
Courtesy of Nancy Morawetz



Untitled, 1991
Casein on wood
18 x 14 inches
James Barron collection


Despite Moira Dryer’s premature death, she enjoyed a prolific career with solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, organized during her lifetime but mounted posthumously. In 2000, there was a major survey of her paintings dated from 1989 to 1992 that traveled to Forum for Contemporary Art, St. Louis; Art Gallery of York University, Toronto; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; and The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore.


Dryer’s work is included in the permanent collections of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Museum of Modern Art, New York; among others.


Exhibition booklet with check list

Playful & Philosophical: The Paintings of Moira Dryer
The New York Review of Books, April 25, 2020

Moira Dryer’s art of expectancy, at the Phillips Collection and Greater Reston Arts Center
Washington Post, February 27, 2020


This exhibition is generously supported in part by ARTSFAIRFAX and Robert and Theresa Goudie. Additional support provided by the Exhibition Circle.

Photo credit: Greg Staley