Singularly focussed on the marriage of science, religion and art, Virginia Conroy (a.k.a Virginia Dedini) spent over half a century imbuing her pieces with the spiritual energy latent in all living things. Her work resides in the permanent collections of The Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Conroy attended The Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA, from 1942-1944, and graduated with a degree in commercial art. While her education primed her for cartoon and fashion illustration, Conroy transitioned away from commercial art after finishing university. She instead sought to depict Pierre Theilhard de Chardin’s theory of spiritual evolution through heavily-abstracted multimedia pieces. After moving to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA in 1950, her art took on increasingly complex forms and concepts in order to capture the interconnected nature of science, spirituality, humanity and the cosmos. Conroy’s exploration of humanity's collective evolution complimented the socially conscientious work of her sister, Pat Carey, and the renowned cartoons of her husband, Eldon Dedini.
Conroy was born on February 11th, 1922 in New York City, NY. Her mother, Elvira Von Roszinsky, was a dour Hungarian immigrant who struggled to integrate into American culture and raised Virginia and Pat with a harsh upbringing. Her father, Martin Conroy, was a jovial Irishman who immigrated to New York due to The Great Famine of Ireland. In 1932, their family drove from New York City to Los Angeles, CA, in order for Conroy’s father to pursue an acting career which never materialized. From then on, Conroy grew up in Los Angeles, where she would eventually pursue a university degree from the Chouinard Art Institute.
Conroy began attending Chouinard in Los Angeles, CA, in 1942, studying fashion and illustration for a commercial art bachelor's degree. During her fashion, illustration, and still-life studies, she worked as a library assistant to the University. It was through her life drawing classes and work as a librarian that she met her future husband, Eldon Dedini. A fellow student and janitor, Eldon would frequently clean the library where Virginia worked, and sat behind her during class to admire her drawings. Eldon and Virginia had an intense mutual appreciation for each other’s artistic capabilities. Virginia had originally wanted to become an illustrator and cartoonist, while Eldon wanted to pursue fine art and painting. It is ironic that the two found each other, and in a twist of fate, succeeded in an artistic career that the other wished to obtain. After finishing their degrees in 1944, Virginia and Eldon married on July 15th of that same year. They moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea (Carmel), CA in 1950, and often spent their free time critiquing each other’s artwork.
After Moving to Carmel, Conroy opened a private art studio on the historical Cannery Row. There, she developed an all-encompassing approach to printmaking, painting and sculpture, incorporating Swedish putty, acrylic, oil and watercolor into mixed-media pieces. Her work often featured depictions of nature, humanity, the universe, and microscopic life, all intertwining and growing toward a unified collective evolution. Her pieces are highly textured and feature low contrast palettes, incorporating the color and feeling of the primordial which is central to the existence of all life on Earth. She worked alongside her husband and sister for nearly sixty years in Carmel, imbuing each artwork with an inescapable aura of transcendence. She passed away on June 6th, 2006 at her home in San Luis Obispo, CA, and is survived by her son Giulio Dedini and his partner Steven Matejcek of San Luis Obispo, and many nieces and nephews.
Our thanks to Giulio Dedini for his help in writing her story.
Selected List of Exhibitions and Awards
Solo Exhibitions: 1953 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA 1961 Brunn Gallery, San Francisco, CA 1966 Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Monterey CA 1981 Pat Carey Gallery, Women's Caucus, San Francisco CA 1982 Carmel Art Association Gallery, Carmel CA
Group Exhibitions: 1949-50, 1952 Los Angeles Museum of Art, Los Angeles CA Centennial Exhibition 1951 Denver Art Museum, Denver CO 1954 Pennsylvania Academy, Penn. Annual Exhibition 1959-1967 San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco CA (‘67, 85th, last annual) 1963-1968 San Francisco Art Institute Bank, Traveling Shows: (Fred Martin) 1962 Seattle World's Fair, “Artists Look At Peace) 1963 DeYoung Museum of Art, San Francisco CA 1964 Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco CA
Awards: 1963 San Francisco Museum of Art, S.F. CA, Recommended for Purchase 1966 Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, Monterey CA 1st prize, One Man Show 1975 Monterey County Art Annual, Monterey CA 1st prize, Best in Show (Fred Martin) 1979 Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, PG. CA 1st Prize, W.C. Annual