Press Release

October 11, 2023

MEDIA CONTACT: Brian Passey | [email protected] | 480-874-4626

SMoCA 25th anniversary to highlight the vibrant work of American painter Dorothy Fratt

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) will open “Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage” on Feb. 3, 2024. Dorothy Fratt, “Conjecture,” 1987, and “Red Mesa,” 1977, are shown. All work copyright Estate of Dorothy Fratt.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), which will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Feb. 14, 2024, is also opening the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the prolific, yet underrecognized, American painter Dorothy Fratt the same month.

Debuting on Feb. 3, 2024, “Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage” will span more than five decades of the late artist’s oeuvre, presenting a selection of foundational early works and ephemera alongside numerous paintings that exemplify Fratt’s vibrant and distinct style of abstraction.

“’Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage’ is the most comprehensive retrospective to date of an artist who has been incredibly important to the greater Phoenix community but largely unrecognized in the artworld,” said Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator at SMoCA. “There is no better moment to highlight Fratt’s work as a way to contribute to the ongoing revision of the art historical canon. Showcasing the work of an artist who operated outside of the artworld center creates a richer understanding of what these oversights have left out.”

McCabe co-curated the exhibition with Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art at SMoCA, which is operated by the nonprofit Scottsdale Arts. In many ways, “Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage” is a continuation of a 1980 exhibition of the artist’s painting at Scottsdale Center for the Arts.

Fratt (1923–2017) was born in Washington, D.C., and moved to Phoenix in 1958. It was in Arizona where Fratt began teaching private classes and solidified her unmistakable style of abstraction and mastery of color. In 1972, Fratt moved to Scottsdale, where she worked with city officials to commission a major public artwork by sculptor Louise Nevelson, “Windows to the West,” which will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Oct. 26 during a special event at Scottsdale Civic Center.

“As the field of art history slowly opens its frame of reference to include women and people of color, for example, more and more artists such as Fratt are coming into view,” McCabe said. “A comprehensive survey of Fratt’s work at SMoCA, in her adopted hometown, is a first step in that direction — an opportunity to celebrate a much-loved artist and share, with a larger audience, the impact of a great American painter.”

Fratt showed prodigious talent in art as early as age 9, while still living in her native Washington, D.C. At 15, one of her paintings won first place in an exhibition at the District’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, garnering much attention.

The recipient of numerous educational scholarships, as well as apprenticeships with cubist painter Karl Knaths and landscape and figure painter Nicolai S. Cikovsky, Fratt joined the Washington Color School in the 1950s before leaving to forge her own style of abstraction, more closely tied to the Southwest United States, after moving to Arizona in 1958.

“Working at the margins of the art world, Fratt made abstract paintings inspired by the freedom of space she found in the Arizona desert,” said Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art at SMoCA. “She possessed a clear philosophy toward making art that was both an intellectual and intuitive pursuit, making her a true visionary of her time.”

Although Fratt’s paintings are often classified as color field and abstract expressionist, her use of color and expression of her surroundings evolved into a prolific body of work that idiosyncratically emotes landscape, atmosphere, gesture and mood on her own terms.

The exhibition is accompanied by the artist’s first monograph, co-published with Radius Books and available in October 2023. The catalog presents new scholarly essays; an extensive biography; artist conversations with Teresa Baker, Caroline Kent and Rebecca Ward; and color illustrations of artworks and ephemera.

SMoCA — named “Best Art Museum” by the Phoenix New Times in the 2023 Best of Phoenix awards — is located at 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale, Arizona 85251. It is open Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit for information.

Admission is $10–$12 for non-members; $7–$9 for students, seniors (65+) and veterans; and free for Scottsdale Arts ONE Members, healthcare workers, first responders, and patrons 18 and younger. Admission to the museum is pay-what-you-wish every Thursday and every second Saturday of the month. Timed-entry tickets are required. Save time and money by booking online at

“Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage” runs Feb. 3 through July 21, 2024. It is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and co-curated by Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator, and Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art. Support provided by Title Partners Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation. Exhibition and catalog support provided by Nancy and Robert Kravetz Philanthropic Fund, Joan Prior and John Armstrong, Christy and Charlie Jerz, and Yares Art Gallery.