Artist Statement

deborah feller

The magic of creating a three-dimensional form in space on a flat surface charms me into spending hours and hours observing nature and rendering it accurately on paper or canvas. As I capture the elements of a still life, face or narrative scene, my excitement for natural realism grows and encourages my patience and discipline. Because of my fascination with human drama and the unconscious, I use the crafts of drawing and painting, acquired through such study, to depict emotional expression and the dynamics of relationships. I seek, with my art, to evoke visceral reactions.

While a portrait affords the most direct experience of the personal, and a still life–because of the meaning we often invest in objects–provides opportunity for eliciting feelings, narrative possesses the most potential for delving into the mysteries of the psyche and inviting viewers to project their own unconscious associations onto a picture.

The subjects of my narratives and still lifes are inspired by my work as a psychotherapist. For many years I’ve been listening to clients tell their stories of incest and other forms of childhood abuse, a process that pulls me into the vortex of their emotional storms and permanently alters my worldview. Knowing that adults, especially parents, often assault–and sometimes kill–children, propels me to do more than just work privately to help my clients heal.

I want to take the feelings that I’m privy to in therapy sessions and convey them to others, to provoke conversation on matters difficult to confront. Each drawing or painting, with its genesis in the life of one of my clients, challenges me to create a convincing, affecting and esthetic composition that captures the intensity of the moment without being illustrative, sentimental, melodramatic or exploitive.

I take as my template Italian Baroque painting, with its visual and emotional drama epitomized by the tenebristic works of Caravaggio, and develop my work from there.

In the commingling of my two callings, I draw upon the power of art to express the darker aspects of human nature, aspiring to create works that touch viewers and move them from comfortability to contemplation of the unimaginable.