Members' Gallery Debbie Lerman

Statement ·

As a middle-aged wife and mother, making art feels like an act of defiance, like trying to dig myself out from under a pile of suffocating assumptions about what I can and cannot achieve. The tools I use: humor, love, perseverance. The resulting work traces the struggle, embodies the victory.


At the heart of the work is my identity as a woman -- my myriad roles vis a vis my family and society. To produce it, I rely heavily on technological tools that did not even exist as I was growing up. It is both disorienting and exhilarating to use cutting edge 21st-century technology in waging battle against age-old stereotypes and barriers.


The focus is an exploration of bodies, gender roles and intimacy in the context of a male-dominated, digitally driven world. It takes shape in unexpected juxtapositions of form and content, creating spaces of uncertainty, where assumptions can be questioned, taboos challenged, and paradigms shifted.


For example, I create large images that look like real quilts but are actually flat digital prints made of photographed fabrics with edgy images of guns, pills, bondage, etc. The ambiguity of form -- fabric/paper, real/fake -- underscores the ambiguity of content -- traditional quilt patterns/contemporary digital images – to raise broader questions about historical concepts of women's art and the historical trajectory of women in art.


Looking underneath the quilts, I also make images that appear to be Photoshopped collages of fragmented nude male forms but are actually undoctored photographs made in the studio. Here, too, the uncertainty raised by the form -- digital manipulation/straight photo -- gives pause for an examination of the content -- male model/female photographer -- a reversal of traditional roles.

Part of the Quiltiness series, this is a quilt-sized photograph of a quilt that has never existed in the "real world." It is constructed using photographs of real fabrics (most of which you might not expect to find in your grandmother's quilt) that I cut and pasted in Photoshop to form a traditional quilt pattern. In this twin-sized quilt, over 1,000 hexagons come together in one of the most popular patterns in quilting history, known as "grandmother's flower garden." The iQuilt series is a mash-up of quilting and photography, illusion and reality, homey comfort and edgy humor.

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