deborah brown statement

Deborah Brown has spent the last 12 years in Bushwick and East Williamsburg, a neighborhood she helped pioneer as an artists' community. "Runaways," her recent paintings, take the landscape of the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone as the location for a series of narrative paintings. In this work, a female protagonist goes on adventures accompanied by various animal companions. The work conjures a picaresque sprit familiar from adventure stories in which a heroine navigates an exotic and unfamiliar world, enticing the audience to follow her on a path of surprise, threat and wonder. The paintings are composed of thick slabs of paint applied with a palette knife and punctuated by linear passages and off-register color patches, a fractured, brooding landscape that mirrors the internal psyche of the protagonist. The paintings channel feelings of abjection, strength and freedom, offering a subtext of feminine empowerment and artistic discovery.

A second, complementary body of work consists of paintings inspired by the tradition of formal portraiture and history painting. Brown mines art history, literature and mythology for images that she then subjects to the whimsical blender of her imagination. In one series of paintings, well-known images from Modernist sculptures and paintings leave the confines of the museum to roam prosaic pastoral landscapes. The work employs strategies of recognition, displacement and whimsy. Referencing iconic images such as Picasso's Boisgeloup sculptures, metal cut outs and paintings of Mosqueteros, Brown places figural images in unexpected contexts so that they become characters we identify with and anthropomorphize. By assuming a more human attitude, the recontextualized figures become vehicles for a full range of thoughts and emotions--contentment, abjection, despair or glee. The artist returns the figures to their "origins" as images derived from the human figure. The effect is a reexamination of the original referent and its tradition, creating new connections within the work while simultaneously evoking a memento mori to something past.