Exhibition Opening, Artist Demonstrations, and Meet & Greet on June 19th from 4-7 pm at the J. Petter Galleries.
Being outdoors in her wonderful home state of Michigan is always an inspiration for Debra Reid Jenkins' paintings. Standing on one of the deer trails in the dunes at Lake Michigan, between storms the sun will break through the dark skies, enormous waves crashing on the shore are suddenly illuminated, seagulls are hunkered down and the wind is blowing so hard the sand stings as it hits her face. On another day, the water will be nearly flat and the sunlight dances on the sandy bottom with the sound of gentle lapping as the water hits the shore. On the drive home at the end of the day, long shadows across the farmer's fields echo the stratus clouds that grow more purple and pink as the evening rolls in. For a week or so every year, the cherry orchards come into bloom. Debra relives the magic she felt growing up with the cherry flowers all around on her parent's property. They shimmer in the light and just as quickly they are gone too soon, fluttering to the ground like fairies returning to the earth. Her challenge is, how to put this on canvas.
As a painter, Debra's goal is to capture with paint specific moments in time on canvas. Ideally that canvas will behave more like a doorway than simply an object on the wall. Her original training was in portraiture with a strong emphasis on traditional skills and techniques sometimes referred to as academic training. The portrait work led to book and magazine illustration which she did for several years. During this time she was also learning to paint en plein air taking my easel and paints out on location in all kinds of weather and she found that she loved the challenge. Having learned what makes a person's face uniquely theirs, she uses those same observational skills in the landscape.
The water in Michigan is another passion of Debra's. She's canoed and kayaked rivers and the big lake for as long as she can remember always loving the reflections in the water and looking through waves. Continually amazed at how different it can look from one day to the next. Patterns in water movement are something she finds herself continually drawn to, because of the complexity of pattern and light, she is constantly discovering new ways of seeing and painting.
When Debra was in college she also worked as a hand decorator and gilder. Her great aunt, Rose Kozak, owned a furniture manufacturing company that specialized in hand-decorated French floral and chinoiserie furniture. She grew up around a lot of different styles of art and one of her first art books was a collection of Hokusai's views of Mt Fuji. She finds that the pictorial space in woodblock prints and chinoiserie inform the bones of her water paintings. Debra has often been asked how she can work in so many different styles. Her answer to that is the way some people can speak in different languages, she speaks in different visual languages. Ultimately Debra is always seeking to communicate what she sees and feels. Sometimes this requires different vocabularies.