November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Christie Devereaux/Artist Interview

Stormy Weather 20, Acrylic on Canvas, 36'' X 48'', 2012

Fathoming “The Spirit of the Sea:”

an interview with Christie Devereaux

By Dr. José Rodeiro

Brooklyn native Christie Devereaux is a painter with a degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute, who during that Pratt interval worked with acclaimed director Robert Wilson, as a modern dancer.  After Pratt, she continued her career as a dancer on tour with the Electric Circus.

In 1969, Devereaux moved to Italy, where she worked as an industrial designer and graphic artist.  In addition, she completed official church and state painting commissions, e.g., a portrait of Padre Pio for the Museum of Padre Pio, Pietrelcina, Italy.  In 1980, she returned to New York, exhibiting at Lever House, Broome Street Gallery, New World Art Center and The Chung-Cheng Art Gallery at St. John’sUniversity.

From 1991 to 2011, Ms. Devereaux worked with both teachers and students in the Freeport Public Schools, New York, where she designed educational murals and facilitated school-wide art projects that were supported by grants.  In 1999, Devereaux was awarded a museum fellowship from Long Island Educational Enterprise Zone where she collaborated on a curriculum-based project, working in conjunction with The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  As the 21st Century unfurled, she unleashed a series of paintings and sculptures that were designed to engage the viewer in meditative self-reflection; contemplatively assailing her viewers with a host of secular, political, and spiritual perspectives.  Her current series titled “The Spirit of the Sea” (click here to read Review) offers passionate seascapes that reflect on her personal experience with the forces of nature.  This elegant and fluid exhibition is the result of the very talented TIC curator, Frank DeGregorie.   Recently, in Manhattan, at the home of the notable master-draughtsman Nikolai Buglaj (across from the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center), RAGAZINE’s roving Contributing Art Editor, Dr. José Rodeiro (Coordinator of Art History, New Jersey City University) caught up with Ms Devereaux, and the following insightful conversation ensued:

 

JR:    When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?

CD:  It wasn’t until my last year at Pratt Institute that I knew my major in Industrial Design was not going to be my lot or destiny.  After studying “I.D.” for four-years, I heard an inner voice, saying, “FINE ARTS!”   We all have an internal voice that guides and informs us about the many choices we make in life.  Finally, I decided to listen to that voice.

JR:    Why do you create art?

CD:   The passion to create art exists within me as a primal need to express my most inner thoughts about the world around me.

I have always been fascinated by the power of language.  For me, art is a universal language, such as music, dance, and math, with which I can explore and express an entire range of ideas and emotions.  Just consider that art has always been the first written language, which we have used to communicate our feelings and ideas.  Children first express themselves through drawings. Also, the first record of art as a language appeared as cave paintings in places, such as Altamira and Lascaux, and earlier.  Other spoken languages have become extinct, but visual art always manages (somehow) to survive over time.  I, too, have a longing to “communicate” my feelings and ideas over time.

With regards to artistic creation, personally, the actual creative process for me has to do with reflecting on an array of ideas, feelings, and issues that range from secular, religious to political.   I am always questioning and exploring those ideas.  My goal is to try on some level to provoke thought or emotions on the part of the viewer, so that they, too, start to reflect on their own perspectives about the various issues they face.

JR:    Where do you get your ideas for your subject matter?

CD:    Ideas come from numerous sources, such as witnessing something firsthand on the street, a conversation, nature, music or even just a few words read (a poem, etc.).   All of these things – that are seen, heard, felt, and experienced  have the potential to inspire creativity and art. 

JR:    Now let’s talk about your recent work  –  your seascapes in The Spirit of the Sea series.  I see that in the past your paintings addressed social and political themes.  Why have you chosen to paint majestic monochrome Neo-Romantic seascapes?

CD:  Throughout my life, I have always painted seascapes; usually, watercolors or oil paintings.  However, this new series of seascapes is different because my focus is tonal or grayish luminescence as a means of examining the effects of refracted shimmering light on human emotions.  I am using the seascape to explore how natural incandescent light encourages meditation and contemplation by means of imaginative-manipulation of light and shadow.

Another new component that I am introducing in this series:  in order to heighten the effects of light and also to create vibrant sensate-surfaces, which constantly change as a result of whatever existing environment surrounds the piece. I primarily use either silver or copper primed metallic surfaces to paint on.

I usually start with a small copper or silver sketch.  Often, I photograph a painting halfway through its completion; and then draw on the photograph to adjust the lighting and the composition.

JR:    Are there any specific challenges when working on metallic surfaces?

CD:   The challenge is always in how the light hits the painting in various environments.   For example, the same painting can look great in a semi-dark room and then look washed out in a well lit room.  When metal-surfaces are beneath the pigment, each painting has different lighting requirements.

JR:    How long does it take to complete a painting?   And, how do you know when it is finished? 

CD:    The length of time depends on the complexity of the painting.  Some small paintings can take longer than a large painting.   Once, the image is sufficiently apparent, I take each painting and place it in as many different  types of lighting situations as possible – in order to see if the composition is still interesting.  I also photograph the painting to distance myself from the actual image.  This process helps me to analyze the composition, revealing anything that is still needed or not.

JR:   I see allusions to Joseph Mallord William Turner.   Are you influenced by his work? If so how?

CD:    I was a teenager when I first saw Turner’s work.  His influence has been profound; because Turner’s paintings really connect to my personal childhood experiences at sea, when I went boating or sailing with my family as a kid.  It is Turner’s light that permeates my childhood memories.   Also, important to me is the fact that I have always seen a direct correlation between Turner’s Romantic sea-images and the Romantic sea poetry of Coleridge and Byron.

JR:   In the new series, I noticed that there is a great aesthetic range from realism to abstraction in your approach to painting your seascapes.  How do you explain that?   Is there a preference?

CD:   Creating challenges is a key component to my art.  By pushing things to the point of abstraction; I am testing and exploring my own limits.  In the future, I would like to continue in a more abstract direction – fully considering and fully animating the veneer, the texture, the light, and surface-façade of my sea-surfaces, dealing with each seascape abstractly as surface.   Again, the intention is to assist the viewer in finding her/his capacity to see the surface as a means for sublime contemplation – as Turner’s or Rothko’s surfaces elicit.

JR:    Thanks, you’ve given our readers plenty of perceptive insights into your work and your future artistic aspirations.

CD:    With gratitude.

 

For more on Christie Devereaux’s art visit:

(http://www.christiedevereaux.com/Christie_Devereaux/Welcome.html ).

 

About the interviewer: 

Ragazine.CC’s contributing art editor, Dr. José Rodeiro, is Coordinator of Art History, Art Dept., New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey.  You can read more about him in “About Us.”