Artist Interviews 2021

Deborah Lynn Irmas  
By Johnny Otto

The first time I saw your work I was instantly captivated by it, for a few reasons. First, I had no idea what media I was looking at. I didn't know if it was painting or tiles or other materials. Second, I just loved the use of color and texture. Can you tell me about the materials that you use, and how the pieces are constructed?

I hear that often...people are unsure of what they are looking at and I think that’s because the process involves many layers of production where tangible and intangible elements are at play. What's interesting is that the pieces start from a digital image yet when viewed digitally as opposed to in person the viewer is confused as to the origin of the image. I must say I do like the confusion with the visual element of the pieces. It's part of their intrigue. This new body of work is mixed-media. Each piece starts from a group of digital photos. Each photo is a close up taken from my "tape" series. I manipulate these photos creating digital collages. These collages are then printed large on poster paper and/or Japanese paper. After working on the images digitally, seeing them on paper at a much larger scale transformed from digital to tangible is exciting. Next I cut and paste to make large scale collages (the largest being 75” x 95.5”) with asymmetrical edges. This process can take quite a long time…usually a month or more to get it all down. There are lots of inconsistencies with the materials such as bubbling from the glue, un-precise cuts and thick areas that need to be cut and altered. After this stage I do all sorts of different things. I add crochet, yarn or twine in geometric shapes often referencing my earlier tape pieces. Besides these materials, I use different types of paint, metallic papers, grommets, rope, yarn and tassels.

What is your background in art? Any formal training, art school or are you self-taught? Have you had a Mentor?

Yes I have had a lot of art training. My first training as a child was through my mom who was an artist. Everyday I would come home from school and watch her paint, sew, knit or crochet. All these skills were the beginning of my art life.

I graduated UCLA with a Bachelors of Fine Art. My years at UCLA were the beginnings of my formal education. My teachers like Alexis Smith were all incredible artists and helped shape my art identity. I have also taken classes at Otis Parsons School of Design and Art Center. I have a 2 year degree in Textile Design from UCLA. In later years I studied Printmaking with Gary Paller and for the past 10 years I have studied with the exceptional artist Tom Wudl whose art can be seen at LA Louver Gallery in Venice, CA. Tom Wudl is an artist and mentor who I look up to. He has taught me to have gratitude for being an artist and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with him.

Your work is in THE MUSEUM OF LATIN AMERICAN ART (MOLAA). How many pieces are in their collection and can you tell me how that came about?

I have one piece in THE MUSEUM OF LATIN AMERICAN ART (MOLAA). I am half Salvadoran so the previous director was interested in one of my pieces from an earlier body of work. The museum acquired the piece titled “Hold me up #2” as it would be one of the few minimal art pieces of that genre that they collect. I am honored to have my art as part of the museum's permanent collection.

Do you find yourself more or less productive during difficult times, such as the pandemic? How has it affected you and your work?

I find myself more productive during difficult times. Doing my art practice helps my internal self and puts me in a sort of meditative state. During difficult times I look forward to making a lot of art. But I must stress, my "feelings" do not overshadow my art. I don't make "light" art when I am happy or "dark" art when I am sad. My work stays consistent with or without adversity. These new collages definitely came out of the pandemic. My previous series was scotch tape on plexiglass. When the pandemic hit, I could no longer purchase plexiglass readily so I decided to work with paper. I am not sure if these collages would have been made had the pandemic not come about.

Any other art forms that you create? Do You write? Are you musical?

No, unfortunately I only do art but I always say in my next life I will be a dancer or a musician. Does that count?!

Any other artists that inspire you and that you'd like to collaborate with or just take a minute to pick their brains?

Yes! I have so many artists that inspire me such as Beatriz Milhazes an exceptional Brazilian collage artist who is known for her large scale and colorful work, Hilma Af Klint a Swedish and mystical artist who I admire for being among the first abstract artists, and Agnes Martin who is known for her inwardness and silence in her paintings. I admire all three of these women artists for their genuineness and their spirituality.

Any shows or fairs coming up for you?

Right now my schedule is not definite. My goal is to finish this series which includes large intricate works. 2022 will be about smaller works as part of the same series. I have not shown this body of work to anyone in person yet.

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