Deborah Kruger

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I felt that my work was not integrated enough with my concerns about habitat fragmentation, the steep decrease bird populations and migration (of birds and people). Fused plastic bags carry an embedded narrative about the consumerism that drives the depletion of planetary resources. Screen printing on this new substrate enables me to integrate images of endangered birds, migration and text in endangered indigenous languages. The new work is sewn and retains a textile sensibility.

I create textile paintings, sculpture and installation that all incorporate feathers made from fused recycled plastic bags. My work is influenced by fiber and pattern and of course my textile design training at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. My hope is that as my artwork becomes more painterly and abstract it continues to straddle decorative and content driven art.

Textile paintings was a term coined by Holly Murray, the Gallery Director at Springfield College. Even though my current work uses recycled materials, notably plastic bags, it retains a distinct textile sensibility.  My pieces also fall into the domain of abstract art. I am tired of the debate about craft vs. art because it promotes a false dichotomy. This description honors all the influences in my work.

There are hundreds, but here is a short list of artists that I continue to look at and find inspiration from: Olga de Amaral, El Anatsui, Naomi Wanjiku, Deborah Butterworth, Betty Woodman, Kyoung Ae Cho, Chakaia Booker, Robert Kushner, William Morris,  and the indigenous artists from the Amazon Basin and West Africa (see my artist statement).

When I was younger, my artwork was more explicitly Jewish (and political) and I was profoundly influenced by feminist Midrashists including Lynn Gottlieb and Judith Plaskow. Although I work with abstraction, core Jewish themes continue to resonate throughout my work:  longing for a homeland, thousands of years of forced migration, the relationship between outsider identity and dominant culture. I think about honoring the sacred masquerading as prosaic, the intrinsically meditative/davening aspect of artmaking and Tikkun Olam, the hope that art can heal the world.

My simplest and most elusive advice: To thine own self be true. This means committing to your imagery, materials, and lifestyle without apology. Make art the organizing principle of your life. Listen to your inner wisdom and muse, not to the trends in the marketplace. Get support from people who understand you and your vision. Make art, lots of it. Pursue excellence. A cohesive body of work must precede all marketing efforts.

If you have children, they always come first. If you want an international art career, it might be better not to have a family. Now that my children are grown, I can turn my attention towards my art-making in a way that was not possible when they were young. It’s essential to claim a studio/room/table or some space devoted to your work no matter how seldom you get there. This ‘room of your own’ will help maintain your artist identity and provide you with a place to work when time allows.

Finding balance is one of the hardest aspects of any artist’s life. It really never ends. I juggled raising two children as a single mom, running a business along with maintaining my studio and art career. Taking excellent care of my health is an important key to my success and high energy level.

Like many artists, my revenue comes from many sources. Before I retired, my income came primarily from my medical billing company, lectures and artist workshops. I have always had rental income. Support also comes in other forms. For years I was a member of an artist’s support group and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who understand the stresses and conflicts inherent in balancing the artist’s life. In recent years I have been able to attend international artist residencies. 

During my first year in Mexico, I lived with a Mexican family with 8 year-old twins. The girls couldn’t pronounce my name correctly and it came out sounding like Cobra. The name stuck and has become my Mexican ‘sobre nombre’ nickname.

I enjoy the collaboration inherent in commission work. Generally, the buyer or designer would contact me to discuss the project and together we would develop the size, design, budget and timeline. Private Commissions start at $8,000 and are based on a price per square foot/meter.

I started the residency program back in 2012. We have 2 – 3 private live/work spaces that artists and writers use for 1 month residencies. There’s lots of information on our website http://360xochiquetzal.com/. A residency is a wonderful way to nurture your creativity.