Mavis Iona Pusey was born in Retreat, Jamaica in 1928. As a child, her aunt taught her to sew, a skill which led her to move to New York City at 18 years old to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion. While there, she won a Ford Foundation Scholarship and transferred to the Art Students League. Her switch to the fine arts was encouraged by her mentor Will Barnet, who would remain her longtime friend. In the 1960s, Pusey moved to London to work as a pattern maker for Singer. There she met and worked for Swedish printmaker Birgit Skiöld, whose atelier was frequented by David Hockney and Dieter Rother. In 1968, Pusey moved to Paris, and though she would only spend a year there before returning to New York City, the time here marked important moments in her life as an artist. In the little time spent, she premiered a print she made of the student riots and held her first solo exhibition in the Galerie Louis Soulange.

Back in New York, she took classes from Robert Blackburn to study the painting and printmaking process. In the three years Pusey spent there, she became particularly fond of painting the “energy and the beat” of construction sites. To her, construction and demolition represented the cycle of death and rebirth, saying herself that “in each of my works…. there is a circle to depict the never-ending continuation of natural order and all matter." By 1971, both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art acquired her work, and the next year, she received a grant from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. The painting, Dejygea, displayed at the Whitney, was well received, even amidst the controversial curatorial choices that went into putting the show together. Because of her race and sex, she was expected to paint narrative, identity-driven pieces rather than non-representational abstraction. Yet, she remained true to her artistic spirit and continued to create what she called “geometrical forms in a variety of geometrical configurations,” making space for herself in a white male-dominated art community.

In the 1970s and 1980s, she was an art instructor at Rutgers University, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The New School for Social Research. Then in 1988, after a tumultuous few years in New York, she moved to Orange, Virginia, where she taught painting at the all-boys Woodberry Forest School. In the late twentieth-century, as her health declined, her work was being included in major museum exhibitions and adopted into the permanent collections of major institutions. At this time, though, she auctioned off many of her pieces to support her care until her death in 2019. She is survived by her daughter Yvonne Palmer. Though underappreciated during her time, the increasing popularity of her work has established her as a leading geometric, abstract artist.