On view: Paintings by Debra Clem

14th October 2021

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–“Surface and Illusion” is the title of a solo exhibition by Debra Clem, head of painting in the School of Arts and Letters at IU Southeast.

The show opens on Thursday, October 28, with a reception from 6-8 p.m. at the historic Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany. It runs through January 20, 2022.

It features 18 recent painting and pastels of her perceived environment. Seven of the paintings are portraits of Clem’s close friends and colleagues, rendered with a traditional oil technique in exquisite detail on circular aluminum panels. Seven of the paintings have never been exhibited before.

Debra Clem, “Barb,” a portrait of Dr. Barbara Kutis, oil on Dibond.

A native of Indiana, Clem enjoys a deserved reputation for her work, which has been featured in more than sixty group, invitational, and solo shows at the regional and national level since 1995. She has been the recipient of the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, as well as five individual grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

“Each body of work is a new exploration of visual interests and questions about seeing, experiencing, and making,” Clem said. “The works are connected because I am interested in developing surfaces and images through pushing the potential and possibilities of oil-based media.”

One of the featured bodies of work began with photographs of rusted cars, box springs, tin cans, and lawn mowers, stacked onto large piles at scrap yards.

“These discarded materials carry memories of human activities and experiences,” Clem said.

Those memories are suggested using digital imaging printed as an initial layer on the surface, with oil paint applied over the entire image. In several cases, Clem mixed oil paint with a putty made from linseed oil, calcium carbonate and a beeswax-based medium to enhance the tactile qualities of these forms.

Her most recent body of work is a series of figurative and portrait paintings in oil involving a traditional oil painting technique on Dibond, an aluminum composite sheet.

“Although I often integrate the use of imaging technology or mixed media with traditional approaches to painting, I also believe that traditional painting applications are equally challenging in regard to experimentation with composition and surface development,” Clem said.

The subjects of these paintings are friends and colleagues.

Debra Clem, “Donna,” a portrait of Donna Stallard, oil on Dibond.

“I want to draw the viewer into the works as both a sensory and psychological experience,” Clem said.

To learn more about the exhibition, “Debra Clem: Surface and Illusion,” visit the website of the Carnegie Center for Art & History at http://www.carnegiecenter.org/exhibitions/debra-clem-surface-and-illusion/.

To learn more about Clem’s work, visit her artist website at debraclem.com.

Homepage photo: Debra Clem, Self-Portrait (detail), oil on Dibond.

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