Fascinated by both art and science, especially astronomy and astrophysics, Dorothea Rockburne believes that art and science originate from a single source and are informed by the same reality. In her paintings, many which look like swirling astrological subjects, she expresses her sense of harmony, correspondences and patterns that she regards as ultimate beauty with metaphysical significance. Some of her work is also described as minimalist and geometric because she has folded canvas into parallelograms and triangles with variations of surface texture.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Rockburne relied upon the Fibonacci series, a set theory of mathematics of chance as taught by the French mathematician Henri Poincare. She was also inspired by the early Italian painters Giotto and Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
A Canadian, she attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal throughout her childhood and early teenage years and in the 1950s studied at the Black Mountain School in North Carolina.