Lucy McDonald Bane’s style is decidedly abstract with its pulsating rhythms which create the optical illusion of depth on flat surfaces. In an interview, however, she did not want to be associated with the Op Art movement, claiming there was “no profound purpose to her art, rather she did it for the pure pleasure of looking.”

Bane—known as “Mackey” to her friends—was born in Point Pleasant, in Bland County, Virginia, west of Roanoke. Her grandmother was a representational artist who painted portraits. In high school Bane took no art courses, except what was taught in home economics. She enrolled at Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (now known as Virginia Tech) with the intention of becoming an art major. With little art training, her first art class was a disaster because she felt ill-prepared. Switching  her major to science, she graduated in 1947. She married shortly afterward to Ernest Jeffries, but they divorced after twelve years. 

Finding herself in Greensboro, North Carolina, she pursued art at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Her most influential instructor was Gregory Ivy, who founded the art department as well as the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Progressive and somewhat controversial, Ivy was known for urging his female students to seek and value freedom. He was Bane’s mentor throughout her student years and beyond; she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1959. Using her degree, Bane accepted teaching positions at various institutions: Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina; California State University at Fullerton; the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She also served as curator at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, from 1977 to 1980.

 Even though she did not study with him, Josef Albers was one of the great influences on Bane’s art. Using her background in science, she immersed herself in his Interaction of Color, a lavish volume in which he explored how one color impacts another depending on its size, placement, hue, and intensity. And like Albers, and with guidance from Ivy, Bane explored working on glass and also metal. Despite her scientific bent, she explained her methodology as follows: “I start off working and never know what it will look like when I get through. Every picture is an adventure.” Regardless, her paintings and silkscreens appear studied, carefully thought out for maximum impact, whether through the juxtaposition of colors, or the repetition of certain shapes and lines.