African-American artist Mavis Pusey was born in Kingston, Jamaica on September 17, 1928, and grew up in the small rural village of Retreat. Her aunt taught her to sew and by the age of nine, Mavis was designing and making her own clothes. Throughout her youth what she wanted to do was to study fashion in America. She left Jamaica at the age of eighteen for the famous Art Students’ League in Manhattan and earned her way by sewing couture wedding gowns.
Pusey began her studies at the Arts Students’ League in New York, originally studying fashion but switching her interest to printmaking, studying with Will Barnet. Further studies took her to London, where she worked at the Birgit Schold Workshop, then back to New York and finally to Virginia, where she received her B.A. from the Mary Baldwin College.
Between 1969 and 1972, Pusey worked at the Robert Blackburn Workshop and later at the New School for Social Research in New York. She exhibited with Louis Soulanges in Paris, Curwen Gallery in London and Associated American Artists in New York.
In 1988, after sixteen years and a determined but losing battle to keep her artist’s loft in New York, she found herself adrift. She instructed her real estate agent to find her a home “about two hours outside of Washington.” She settled on a cottage in Orange County, Virginia. “My friends thought I was nutty. I left New York to go live in the bush.”
Her work has been exhibited internationally and she taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Drew University, New Jersey; and the New School for Social Research, New York. She is affiliated with Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors in New York; the National Museum of Women in the Arts; and the Visual Artists and Galleries Association.