Artist DebiLynn Fendley is a conceptual realist who works primarily with cultural subgroups, creating portraits of artistically underrepresented people. See more of this versatile artist’s work by visiting her website.
“Roses and Oleander” Mixed Media, 20” x 16”
This is what I know: I grew up in a place that wasn’t all that important, but the place a person is born always holds a certain kind of sweetness. Most often it’s like honeysuckle—sweet to some people, sickly to others.
“My Bacchanalia” Mixed Media, 16” x 20”
My family lived in the country. My dad’s family were dairy and crop farmers and my grandfather worked in the local mill until it burned to the ground, thus ending the prosperity of the community. He then found another mill in which to work.
“Dreams of Distant Drums” Graphite on Paper, 18” x 18”
I grew up sickly and confined. I remember some things from the years before I went to school—sitting and observing, playing with certain favorite toys, loving animals, loving books and making up stories.
“Three Little Pigs” Graphite on Paper, 12” x 19”
Then came school. I loved learning, even though in the beginning I wasn’t good at it. I had tunnel vision, and I can remember that things I heard always had an underwater sound in my mind. With obsessive-compulsive disorder, I lived life on the spectrum and no one knew until I was diagnosed much later in life. Making art became one of my obsessive rituals and remains so till this day.
“Carousel” Acrylic on Paper, 22” x 30”
I was very right-brained, and I remember having to force myself to operate outside of my normal in order to be normal. My first school art project was a rainbow, and I got an “F” on it. I was clueless as to what the teacher wanted, so I drew my rainbow all in black. I suppose she thought I was being defiant.
“Crystal Bridges” Acrylic on Paper, 32” x 20”
This didn’t stop me though. Once I discovered reading, the joy of writing and the need to illustrate what I wrote, there was no other path for me.
“Being Slipshod” Acrylic on Paper, 22” x 30”
Now I work within cultural subgroups to produce both documentary and conceptual realism pieces in photography, printmaking, drawing and painting. As a storyteller, I push the boundaries between fantasy and reality, but always with a grain of truth. I want to be true to what and who I am, to be consistent no matter which subculture I am working with, to be strongly protective of my models and their ideas.
“Jumping Through Hoops” Etching and Spit Bite Aquatint, 11” x 14”
I try to bridge boundaries between cultural subgroups and mainstream norms by presenting, in imagery, people who are underrepresented in art. If nothing else, I hope to start a dialogue, provide an education and offer opportunities for individuals who would not otherwise darken the door of a gallery or a museum to look at and make art. I like placing art in unconventional and surprising places, thereby forcing people to look.
“Wolf Watching” Etching and Spit Bite Aquatint, 11” x 14”
When I am asked why I do what I do, I always say, “To bear witness.”
Artist DebiLynn Fendley in the studio
I have been heavily influenced by Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, but the motto I have taken to heart and use as my own comes from a quote by Milton Rogovin, “because the rich ones have their own photographers.”
Artist DebiLynn Fendley invites you to follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
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