For the next eight years, The Rose took over her life, as she painted and repainted it.
"It’s going through a whole cycle of art history, the primitive, the archaic, the classic, and then on to the baroque but still not the final version. I just want to create a work that is just so precariously balanced between going this way or that way that it maintains itself," she said.
To keep herself going, Jay drank a quart of Christian Brothers brandy a day and smoked two to three packs of Gauloises. At some point, she began adding metallic powders into the mix for sparkle, and inserted copper wire, beads, and pearls. By 1965, she had paid a total of $5,375.51 for painting materials. Today it resides in the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Despite all those Gauloises, it was the painting that was the death of her. Constantly licking her brush to get a point, Jay ingested huge amounts of lead from the white paint, and died of cancer in 1989. Ironically, Jay’s first title for her painting has been Deathrose.