Artist Statement

I draw, paint, and enjoy working with mixed media. After a flirtation with mystical surrealism in art school, I had a few experiences which led me to explore the mythos of love and loss. Then a recognition of the global climate crisis pulled me back to here and now.

About the Garden Variety series:

Around 2010, I was in London, helping my mother-in-law tidy up the living room, when I was arrested by several photographs* of birds featured in a section of newspaper that was in the recycling bin. Somewhat absurdly, I felt I just had to save these stunning beauties. So I tore out the pages and brought them back home, compelled to paint them all. A variety of bees were next, plus a pair of cardinals, a few caterpillars, butterflies, a mouse (or baby rat?), and then a dragonfly. The backgrounds of each painting often depict hints at potential, or actual, loss of habitat: a ghostly image of a branch, a nest, a cavity in a tree, a honeycombed hive, or an abandoned bird house. These added decorative papers suggest elements of humankind: the domesticity of wallpaper, or perhaps the gesture of a wrapped gift. Bits of gold leaf may evoke its use in sacred icons, which may elevate the image beyond the mundane.

My photographic skills not being adequate, I requested permission from photographers I had found online to use their images of various creatures as my models.  (Most were kindly obliging, asking only that I be sure to give them a photo credit, which I have done*.)  With coinciding concerns about global threats to bees and other pollinators, my Garden Variety series evolved into deeper meditations on the everyday nature that is around us, and our global responsibility to protect all of it.

Using such photographs for reference, I paint my subjects in oils, with pen and ink and colored pencils, atop a background of encaustic wax I first build up in many layers on wood panels. Scraps of wallpaper, origami paper, decorative papers, feathers, other found objects, and/or torn bits of gold leaf are incorporated, to evoke dreamlike, fantastical, yet largely invisible activities, as imagined during the creative process.

This is my artist statement on ArtSpan's website.

* (Deep appreciation to anyone who can provide photography credits for any of the non-credited images I have painted!)

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A more personal statement from the archives:

(2000) Deborah Howard-Page
B.F.A., 1993, San Francisco Art Institute

I find myself researching and contemplating the roles that nature has played in ancient mythologies, and how we all yearn for connection to nature. Out of these studies, and while listening to music, I find myself motivated to make art.

My wax encaustic mixed media works combine pigmented beeswax, oil paint, colored pencils, pen and ink, found objects (bones, leaves, insect wings), and/or pastels, on wood panel supports. Often I will make a sketch or study, particularly for figurative and portrait work, but the rest comes into being through process. At times an element of chance will lead me in a direction quite different than what I had originally intended. This is both terrifying and exciting.

I discovered the nature muse by reading The White Goddess, by Robert Graves. Here is that story:

When I was twenty, I had given the book to my father, John Howard, a former Hollywood actor who later became a Waldorf high school English/drama teacher.  Around this time our family would gather, filled with anticipation, to watch every single episode of the British production of Graves' "I, Claudius" together, when it first aired on public television in Los Angeles. 

At the time I'd given it to him, I had little interest in reading this book myself.  But after he died, I pulled it off his bookshelf, suddenly curious: he'd bookmarked over fifty pages with paper-clips! As I began to explore his odd bookmarks, I found I was hooked, and the next thing I knew, I felt spellbound.*

My Sacred Grove Series uses photographs I took of certain trees and Celtic ruins during travels in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England.  Like the Celtic Knots, it is centered upon the symbolism of ancient Celtic tree-worship, invoking the spirit of Taliesin, the Sacred Grove, the "roebuck in the thicket."  Urania, Brizo of Delos, got its title from The White Goddess.

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*With all due respect, I am not really interested in the practices or results of nature-magick, or Wicca; I am satisfied with a certain amount of mystery in my life.  But a recognition of my Celtic ancestry actually began for me at age ten, when I first switched on FM radio, surfing stations until I was captivated by the voice of Tommy Makem as he was singing live with the Clancy Brothers, performing The Wind That Shakes The Barley and The Connemara Lullaby. Both songs, so heartbreakingly wistful and melancholic, seemed to call up a deep sense of familiarity in my blood.  (Also read S Page's music comments.)

Robert McNamara writes, "Suantrai is the Gaelic word for lullaby...[such a] beautiful melody can be heard in a recording by the Irish a capella group, "Anuna." Their name derives from the Gaelic "An Uaithne", which is the collective name of the three ancient types of Irish music: Suantrai (lullaby), Geantrai (happy song), and Goltrai (lament)."


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