"I’ve always dedicated my life to the work, and what ever the work needed that’s what I did."
It has been an incredible year for Austin based artist Deborah Roberts. But after decades of hard work and scholarship it’s not really a surprise. She was already an established artist long before deciding to go back to school to get her MFA in 2014, to study and find the language and direction for her new work. Her imagery started out in a very romantic Americana style but after a time that didn’t completely match the reality of what she was feeling and seeing in the world. The work needed to change. After finishing school she gave herself two years to succeed in art before having to give up once and for all. Then she received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 2016. For the first time she could spend a whole year completely focused on her art full time and create without fear. What has followed is sold out shows all over the country and lots of press praising the work and giving her credit which was overdue.
With a focus in collage, painting, mixed media/installation, and text, Roberts is best known for creating portraits of young black girls, aged 8-10, that ask the viewer to consider how their beauty has been imagined: by art history, pop culture, American history, and black culture. And when and why do these young vulnerable girls have to put on their gloves and start fighting battles? It's important work and it resonates with a lot of people.
Deborah is a delight to be around and the interview was a lot of fun. We go all the way back to her beginnings in art and work our way to the present. She then dissects the meaning and language of the work and talks about the future and her new found fame and power.
Some of the subjects we discuss:
Drawing as a kid
Magnet School/Gifted and Talented
First sold out show
Black Americana romantic painting style
Work becoming more abstract/complicated
The never-ending summer break
Feeling the need for more scholarship
Going back to school/graduate degree
Finding the language for you work
Art Palace show
Getting a job/struggling
Avoiding the trap/quitting
Two year agreement
Pollock-Krasner grant year
Creating work without fear
Volta NY/selling out everything
Where have you been?
An incredible year/new notoriety
Listening to the work
Slowing down and scaling up
Incorporating more painting
The structure of a piece
Four freedoms project
New found power
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Banner image components by Deborah Roberts
(left to right) Betwixt, Untitled, It's All Good,
Power Has No Use For Truth, Red Stripes.
- Deborah Roberts website
- The Artist Changing the Face of Black Girlhood - VICE
- Exhibit at Spelman College museum examines black female identity - myAJC
- Deborah Roberts faces down Venus and her stereotypes — Sightlines
- Deborah Roberts Conjures Black Girl Magic | Village Voice
- Home - The Pollock Krasner Foundation
- ABOUT: VOLTA NY