Dona Nelson is a painter who works with both sides of the canvas, staining, soaking, painting, and stretching it until she decides which is the front. She often adds strips of painted fabric or painted string to the work, giving it another textural element.
In 2000, a survey of Nelson's work was shown at the Weatherspoon Museum of Fine Art, Greensboro, North Carolina. Nelson used funds from her Grants to Artists award to work on a series of large-scale paintings. She currently exhibits her work at the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York City, where she has had a solo show of her paintings in the spring of 2014. Two of her double-sided paintings were featured in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Other solo exhibitions have been presented at Cheim and Read, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Michael Klein Gallery, Scott Hanson Gallery, MoMA PS1, and Hamilton Gallery. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at 80WSE Gallery at New York University, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Aldrich Museum, Connecticut; Nassau County Museum of Art; Apexart, Mary Boone Gallery, Marlborough Gallery, Bronx River Art Center, Bard College, Canada Gallery, and Chashama.
Following her FCA support, Nelson received an Artist Legacy Foundation Award (2013). Prior to her 2011 Grants to Artists, Nelson received a Theodoran Purchase Award from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1971), a N.E.A Painting Grant (1987), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1994), and a Tesque Foundation Grant (2000).
Nelson received a B.F.A. from Ohio State University (1968), and studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (1967). She is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, where she has worked since 1991.