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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Elusive Journey Mixed Media Collage
by Debi Pendell


All art is both representational and abstract: representational in that it represents actual things and actual events--even if they exist only in the dimension of thought and feeling rather than in the physical dimension; abstract in that the aim is not to recreate a thing in the world, but to depict the reaction in the artist’s mind and heart witnessing that thing. The subject of my art is what happens to me as I encounter things—imagined, emotional, and physical. Intuitively, I allow my hands to play and discover; my mind follows my hands rather than vice versa.

For my mixed-media collages, I use things that simply show up in my life: wrapping paper, bags, letters, envelopes, picture, ribbons, string, wire, fabric, rusty washers, crushed bottlecaps, used dryer sheets, and so forth. With these accidental ingredients I mix the intentional: papers printed specifically for a work, my own drawings, clay objects I have made, pages of text I have written. Obscured text and upside-down text emphasize its function as a formal element and allude to the difficulty of understanding. Media used include acrylic paint, acrylic matte medium, fine pumice medium, pencil, charcoal, crayon, pastel, pen and ink, and marker. My process includes stitching, drawing, writing, gluing, lacing, painting and glazing. The conversation between the accidental and the intentional creates the art.

Some works are noisy, crowded, complex and intense. Others are simpler, quieter and more relaxed. All involve layers of textures, colors, shapes, lines and objects; forming compositions that have a chaotic, accidental feel, yet retain a strong underlying sense of order. What are they about? Life is complicated and experience many-layered. Understanding is elusive. Just when you think you have seen the whole piece, there is something else that wasn’t noticeable before. More looking, more finding, more unraveling. One travels a long journey through confusion, trial-and-error and discovery, and encounters an elusive sense of a basic structure and meaning beneath it all. Deciphering that meaning, unique to each individual participant/viewer, is the challenge.

The work is also about really seeing and feeling the beauty, meaning and importance of the ordinary. What do we pass by every day without even noticing? Do we use our senses in our daily living? Do we let out bodies resonate with what we encounter? My work incorporates easily-passed-by bits and pieces of life into the practiced discipline of making art. The small details of ordinary life are well worth one’s time and attention. And so is art. Such attention enriches living.

Debi Pendell

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