- Mary Joan DeFeo was born in 1929 in Hanover, New Hampshire, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- DeFeo became known as “Jay” in high school. She was mentored by her neighbour, a commercial artist named Michelangelo.
- She produced around 200 paintings on paper in three months during her stay in Florence, Italy, in 1950.
- She married an artist, Wally Hedrick, in California in 1953, but divorced after she finished The Rose.
- In around 1970, she had severe gum disease, so a dentist built an oral bridge for her. That later became her art subject.
- In 1980 DeFeo landed a job teaching art at Mills College in Oakland. It was her first benefits-paying, full-time job.
- In her early works, DeFeo cared a lot about texture: the thickness and thinness of paint. Texture was for her what colour was for other artists: the main, eye-holding, expressive element.
- During the 1970s, DeFeo started taking photography, and works blended the organic and the artificial, the lifelike and the abstract. They were a way to present the ordinary things in life, but in a surreal way.
- In mid-1980s, she was inspired by samurai helmets and magazine illustrations of sonic-boom shock-wave cones, and bright, vibrant colour began to show up in her paint.