Don Giffin, 55; Artist Combined Media in His Abstract Works

Times Staff Writer

Don Giffin, an abstract painter who expanded the Southern California modes of “color and light” and “finish fetish” art, melding impressions of photography, printmaking and painting into a single work, has died. He was 55.

Giffin, a master printmaker as well as a painter, died July 22 at his home in Marina del Rey of natural causes.

In 1995 he mounted the first of his five solo exhibitions at the Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica. David Pagel described the artist’s work in a Times review as “perfectly smooth, glass-like surfaces” when viewed from afar that seemed to decay as one approached.

“They make pain palpable and evoke mortality’s inevitability,” Pagel wrote of Giffin’s creations, which used layers of paint, gesso and tar that he pulled apart as they dried. “His corporeal abstractions bypass your mind to hit you in the stomach.”


Giffin was one of 10 Los Angeles artists whose work was featured in the 1997 Biennial of the Orange County Museum of Art. In reviewing that exhibition for The Times, Cathy Curtis wrote: “Don Giffin reinvents stain painting by layering color in such a way that it emits an inner radiance verging on iridescence.”

The artist continued to push boundaries, and when he displayed his 6-by-5-foot acrylics at the Grimes Gallery in 2000, Pagel described them as “mesmerizing works.”

“The cross-fertilization between painting and photography that has been cropping up in some of the most intriguing works being made today takes breathless shape in Don Giffin’s physically resplendent paintings,” the critic wrote.

Born in Chicago, Giffin earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at what is now Cal State Northridge.


“When I work,” he once said, “it’s like I’m doing a dance with the painting, and I’m not always leading. When the imagery is mysterious, the surface is perfectly smooth and the color contrast is just right -- with that glow of pale color coming through -- it’s sheer delight.”

Giffin is survived by his wife, landscape architect Nancy Giffin, and his mother, Eugenia Giffin.

The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to Angel Puss Cat Rescue, the Amanda Foundation or the Living Desert.