Joy DiMenna joy dimenna

Towson Artist Downloads the Universe

Joy DiMenna Press Article By Joanna Franklin Bell

Joy and Michael DiMenna’s Towson apartment has statutes of Buddha and Lakshmi, at least two drawings of Jesus, simple brushstroke watercolor prints of angels, and enormous, brightly colored abstract oil paintings of pulsating energy.

Joy, who was raised Jewish, talked casually about the electromagnetic fields of the planet, auras and spirit guides. Michael, who was raised Catholic, intently discussed evolution and change.

“I’m what you call eclectic,” said Joy, smiling about the apparent contradictions. “To me, they’re all masters. Everything is energy.”

Michael also acknowledges Joy’s many different spiritual and scientific influences, without differentiating among them.

“It’s a reservoir,” he said, “and Joy taps into it.”


Joy is a painter who paints, simply, energy. She feels as though her brush is guided by energy that she channels to create some of her brilliant and swirling masterpieces. Her art brings to mind both the gentle shading of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower petals and Salvador Dali’s bold, space-bending surrealism.

“I’m given downloads of information in my mind’s eye,” she explained. “I receive all this information. I don't know what it’s going to wind up to be, because I never know what I'm going to paint until I paint.”

Joy has completed a book called In Loving Color, which showcases some of her paintings and three years of meditative writings on color. Color speaks in rhyme sometimes, according to Joy.

"I think I’m going to try to do a children’s version, because I think it would be nice to read to children," Joy said. She thinks of herself as an emissary of color—a messenger—not an author.

Michael, a sculptor and a contractor with a degree in art education, was amazed by Joy’s eye for color when he met her in 1980.

“When I first met her, I was custom-blending paint in industry, before the computer, by eye,” Michael said, “which is a chore in itself. But when I met Joy, this was a person who could not only blend a color, but she could blend a color from memory. And she could look at a color, and later, make it in the studio, and it would be ridiculously spot-on. She had this ability, which at that time, got my attention big-time.”

Joy DiMenna, the colors of energyJoy’s work with color has evolved from selecting the colors of her walls in her home to interpreting the colors of the energy she feels she can intuit.

“I call it the divine realm of color,” said Joy. “To me it’s angelic energy, because it’s so beautiful. I’m as moved by it as other people, and I know it’s not me that creates it.”

She was inspired by her cousin, Arlene Raven, who was a fiercely feministic art historian and critic in New York City until her death in 2006. Joy and Arlene reconnected as adults in the 1990s, not having seen each other since childhood, and the passion they shared for art came out of Joy’s paintbrush as soon as she returned home.

“I went to see her, and connect with her, up in New York, at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery,” remembered Joy, who also shares a name with Arlene—both of them were named after the same great-grandmother.

“Her partner, Nancy Grossman, was having a retrospective, so my husband and I were invited to come up,” she continued. “I hadn’t seen Arlene in 40 some years. When we saw each other it was like love at first sight again. When I came home, I went in my studio, and all of a sudden this welling of energy came up, and I began to paint two portraits, one of Arlene’s energy, and one of Nancy’s energy. And it just poured out of me.”

According to Michael, Arlene was not known for mincing words or sugar-coating criticism, but her response to Joy’s art was dramatic.

“When she received the picture that Joy had painted of her,” Michael said, “her comment about it was, she’s had her portrait painted many times over the years, by many, many, many artists. However, this particular image captures her essence deeper. It was such a beautiful thing she said. And that kind of set the stage.”


Joy DiMenna Energy Series of PaintingsJoy soon began her first series of energy paintings, called Humans in Nature, after taking a painting class at the Maryland Institute College of Art—her second painting class ever. She had studied the old masters’ art techniques of charcoals and pastels in classes, years before, but it was her MICA instructor who "set her free."

“My teacher said to me at the end of the course, he said, ‘You know, you don’t really need me,’” Joy said. “’You just need to go in the studio. You already have a direction, you know where you’re going. Just go for it.’”

Joy took his advice.

“I was painting to music, and the music was Native American music,” said Joy. “So there were all of these Native American spirits—I was feeling their energy, and they were showing up on my canvases.”

Even today, Joy does not feel she is directing her own art.

“I don’t really know what I’m painting until it starts to form, and I start following it,” Joy said. “It’s very intuitive.”

Her second series was called China Dolls, and the energy she felt directing her was very different from the first.

“One of my best friends in the whole world brought me back a set of human hair brushes from China. Their hair grows so quickly, and they make brushes out of them, and the brushes had a life of their own,” Joy said. “I watched as my hand placed these colors. This whole series is very different—it’s very sharp, even through it’s still very fluid.”

The China Dolls series was exhibited at an invitational art show in Paris in 2000. A picture of one of Joy’s paintings was used as the art on the invitation.

“I was totally thrilled,” Joy said. “It was on exhibition there for a couple months.”

Right now, Joy is working on a large, ambitious project—a series called Calibrations My Promise, the first four of which cover her walls nearly ceiling to floor.

“It's a commitment that I made to do 10 of these 5-by-5 foot paintings,” said Joy, who is painting the series in honor of her cousin Arlene, who Joy feels is still guiding her. She has spent five years creating the paintings, between completing her commissioned paintings, and is ready to have another canvas made for the fifth.

“Eventually I'll have an exhibition with them,” Joy said. “The point of the series is about the different colors. It’s monochromatic in theme. It's about how each of the colors has its own energy, and as a full spectrum, I don't know what it’s going to wind up to be because I never know what I'm going to paint until I paint.”

But she knows what she wants the viewer of the paintings to feel upon their completion.

“You're going to have an experience, and that experience is about bringing you to wholeness, and remembering the energy in your heart,” Joy said. “Energy is never staying still, it's always moving. My work is very fluid, and very flowing. It's very sensually abstract, I would say. My work is I think kind of sensual.”

The figures that appear on Joy’s canvases are sensual indeed, often depicting the nude figures of a woman, sometimes abstractly, but sometimes vividly.

“I didn’t paint it, all I did was follow,” said Joy, trying to explain how her paintbrush is guided. “Here’s what happens: Images start to ‘show up,’ is the best way I can put it. And then, I’m able to be directed, so then I can work with the colors' direction. And I’m being directed—I actually do receive direction, whether it be silent, or whispers. I do hear whispers.”

And in case anyone had any doubts, Joy added, composed and serene, “I am completely sane. These are energies that are working with me.”


The Cloud People is a stand-alone painting, and not part of a series, that Joy painted in 2001.

It’s blue and white, smoky and cloudy—ethereal, peaceful, and yet the brushstrokes look like licks of a consuming fire.

“I was very frustrated with this painting because it was all these body parts—and it was pretty, but I couldn’t get it,” Joy said. “This was the only face that I could get clear, and I was like, what are all these body parts? And it was so cloudy.”

Joy turned to the force she felt was working with her and tried to understand how she was being guided.

“So I said, ‘Is this what you want?’” Joy said. “’I am frustrated with this, what do you want me to do?’ And the color said to me, ‘Yes, this is what we want.’”

The Cloud People went into the window of a Fells Point gallery called Unicorn Studio during a show, and it fascinated the customers. More people came into the gallery because of the painting in the window than any previous show. Joy intentionally priced it high enough so it would not sell—she knew this painting was meant for her alone.

And then that August, Joy had a dream.

“I had a dream, and in the dream, it was a really tall skyscraper, and on the skyscraper it had this big huge ribbon, with a big bow on it. And there was one word written on the ribbon, and the word was, ‘Embrace.' I said to my husband, ‘What does this mean? Does this mean we’re supposed to move to a high-rise building?’ And then there was Sept. 11.”

Joy made a connection between her painting that had been perplexing her so much that summer, her dream, and the tragic turn of events that the Sept. 11 attacks brought.

“Then I had this realization the day after,” Joy said. “The clouds, the smoke, all the body parts, and I realized I had communed with the souls that were about to leave their bodies, and it was connected with the dream to embrace this catastrophe. The word ‘embrace’ made all the difference in the world for me when I realized the connection, because that was such a horrific thing, and all those people whose lives were lost.”

Joy consoles herself with the idea that there is no life and death—“There’s only life and life,” she said.

Angels, considered by most to be in the realm of an afterlife, are, to Joy, very much present in this one.

In her fashion of not differentiating between science and religion, or spirits and technology, Joy talked about angels as forms of energy, personifications of color, and then mentioned her plan to include them on her website.

“I’ll probably be creating a blog to talk about how these things happen,” Joy said happily, moving the conversation to a female angel that she paints. “She just showed up, is the best way I can say. And she is so pretty.”

Joy can bring angels and computers together in more ways than just blogging—her logo for her website is an angel wing, which is a shape she's been drawing since she was a child. She feels the angel was with her even then, as an energy source that she did not yet recognize.

Joy discovered the angel while experimenting with watercolors.

“Angel after angel after angel after angel showed up in every single watercolor that I did—I couldn’t get rid of them,” Joy said. “They were not going away. I was like, what do they mean? I never grew up with angels, never believed in angels, didn’t know a thing about angels. So I decided that I would investigate.”

Joy studied with an angel communicator who lives in Pennsylvania, who showed Joy how to do “automatic writing,” which is meditative writing, done in a dream-like state.

“Through my automatic writing, the angels communicated to me that they were the colors,” Joy said. “And that the colors and the angels were one and the same. And so once I got that, they still show up all the time, and I know that they work with me, and I know that she works with me all the time. I call her my rose angel. Some people would call her Jophiel, the angel of beauty. What I do for people, when I do these custom pieces, is it helps them to remember how beautiful they are, and their own inner magnificence. And that has to do with beauty, so it has to be her, Jophiel.”

Working with her clients, to paint their inner energy, is an honor for Joy. She feels privileged to be the one holding the brush, interpreting the messages.

“I feel so honored to have people trust me and I get to paint these things,” said Joy, who currently has two commissions and has sold much of her work. “They have no idea what they’re going to get. It’s a real trust. It’s wonderful to be trusted like this. And here’s the best part—their reaction when they see it. Most of them always burst into tears. They just get it. And then I start crying.”

Shirley Burke, a Baltimore resident, is a fan of Joy’s work.

“Joy is a gifted and talented artist,” Shirley said. “The essence painting she did for me is hanging in a place where I see it every day. She captured me completely.”

Mary Jo Wevers, a life coach in Oregon, also collects Joy’s work.

“Her passion for her work with color and its spiritual dimensions is inspiring and contagious,” Mary Jo said. “Learning from her about color deepened my appreciation for its importance in my life. Joy helped me discover the personal meaning color has for me, which in turn connected me with the true essence of who I am.”

Joy knows her style of art isn’t for everyone, though.

“When you’re an artist, there can be lots of rejection,” she said. “I honestly don’t feel rejected anymore when people reject me, because I know it’s just not for them. Art is a very subjective thing. If somebody’s going to be looking at, where did I go to school, and who did I study with, and what are my academic qualifications, they’re not really going to find that here. What they’re going to find here is this is an intuitive artist that paints from the heart.”

And if someone thinks that Joy just has an overactive imagination, so be it.

“It may very well be,” she said, untroubled. “Who’s to really know or say? But it’s real for me.”


“My husband, he critiques my work for me,” said Joy, “and once time he said to me, ‘Where is the light coming from? Is it coming from here, or is it here? You might want to think about where the shadows are.’”

Joy smiled as she remembered the conversation.

“And I said, 'The light is coming from within.’”



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In Loving Color by Joy DiMenna


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