Growing up surrounded by the works of artists such as Picasso and Matisse, painter and visual printmaker Deborah Freedman, who visited Knox this past Friday, sees their influence in her own work.
“They are examples of what gave me permission to be a colorist and also an abstract painter and also a landscape artist,” Freedman said.
Freedman, whose talk marked the closing of her show at Knox, showed a series of prints heavily dominated by images of trees, often the same one over and over in a variety of colors. Although the image was a print and remained the same between each piece, the colors themselves were abstract and not usual for landscape painting.
Freedman, who considers herself to be a landscape artist, acknowledged the inherent challenge that came with such an undertaking.
“Being a landscape painter is such a challenge because you’re trying to capture something that’s never the same…and make it static,” she said.
Freedman wasn’t always working with landscapes. Attending art school where there “wasn’t too much discipline…we were just taught stuff and let go on our own,” she worked with fabric design and started experimenting with works created with oil paints she first let float on water. It was only later that she began to be drawn to landscape painting.
“I started completely against the grain of what was going on in the art world,” Freedman said.
A professor she had kept in touch with after graduation led Freedman to printmaking. When he urged her to try making prints, something in her work clicked. Freedman made three plates and, she said, “my head opened up…as fast as my brain could work, I could make prints.”
However, even after finding the form she was most comfortable with, Freedman experienced challenges with the business side of her art. In order to make ends meet, Freedman created works specifically designed to be used as backdrops in fashion photography. These pieces, rather than coming solely from her own mind, are at least partially determined by the needs of the designer and photographer.
“It’s not great art,” Freedman said. “It’s just what it is. But they pay me — sometimes.”
Freedman defended her choice to create art for solely commercial purposes.
“The people who buy art are the same people who pay for the commercial stuff,” she said. “It would be wonderful if I could have a life where I could just do fine art. I don’t have that life.”
Some students didn’t agree with Freedman’s validation of her work.
“I was a little confused about her forays into commercial art,” junior Sam Lewis said. “I feel like she didn’t entirely justify them.”
Freedman suggested that most artists would have to work commercially at some point in their careers, and urged students not to let that fact affect their decision to become an artist.
“If you decide to have a career as an artist, that is something you should try to hold on to,” she said.