Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deidre Adams - Finding Beauty in the Unexpected

Accretion No. 1: Periwinkle, 24 x 24 inches, acrylic and mixed media, ©2010

A couple of years ago I was thumbing through a copy of Fiberarts magazine and caught a glimpse of what I think was an announcement for a show. It was only a detail of a piece but I was drawn to that image because of the texture and the color. Thankfully the artist was credited and the artist was Deidre Adams.

I Googled Deidre and was intrigued by her work. Since that time I had the opportunity to see her work at Visions in San Diego, and in one of the traveling SAQA exhibitions and I check in on her blog from time to time. I am still intrigued by her work and excited for her pursuit of an art degree. (I'm big on education.)

So, with that modest introduction, I want to start with Deidre's Short Artist Statement.

I explore ideas of time and transformation, inspired by the structural elements and seductive surfaces of old buildings and walls. An old wall tells a story, like a canvas upon which both nature and human beings play and leave their marks. Over the course of many years, layers of paint and graffiti are applied, only to be eroded by sun, rain, and wind. The result is a surface rich with texture and color.

My work captures the essence of the seductive surfaces created by this process. Abstract in form, each of my textile works and paintings is a personal meditation using the formal elements of visual language, specifically line, shape, color, scale, and balance. In my textile works, I begin with a heavily stitched quilt, which serves as a canvas of my own making. Texture is a primary focus, and I add layers of marks and washes of color, building a literal record of all the stages in the process.

I've developed my own personal vocabulary of marks that appear in all of my work. Organic in personality, these marks may be dots, dashes, lines, or circles, or may sometimes appear to be a secret language that's familiar, yet remains unintelligible. My choices are made spontaneously, as I work in conversation with the painting. Elements are added in layers, while I continuously adjust the composition to maintain a balance between harmony and chaos.

Façade VIII, 40 x 67 inches, acrylic on stitched textile, ©2010

The first three questions are questions I am asking all artists this year.

Terry: At what point in your life did you know at your core that you are an artist?

Deidre: As a child, I was always drawing and painting; it was just what I loved to do and I didn't think of it with the label of "art." I was raised to believe that women needed to be independent and have a career, but art wasn't ever on the radar as something that I could do as my life's work. I've worked in various jobs throughout my life: waitress, administrative assistant, contracts administration, technical support, graphic designer - but during all that time, I was always doing something creative, whether it was painting watercolors or sewing or making crafty things. While I was working toward my first degree (in Computer Information Systems & Management Science), I took drawing and painting classes for all my electives.

It wasn't until I was older that I became interested in making art quilts. Studying with serious artists like Nancy Crow and others using the quilt as art medium was an eye-opening experience. Nancy was very serious and had high expectations for everyone to work hard. Her ideas about working in a series and fully developing an idea were a revelation to me, and after that, I became very serious as well.

Sometimes for women, there's a hesitation about calling yourself an artist, especially if you don't have formal training. There's a fear that at the worst, people will think you're a fraud, or at the least you're rather full of yourself. When I began to sell my work and get into some of the bigger shows, that was validating and the fear began to subside. At some point, when someone asked, "What do you do?" I finally had the courage to say, "I'm an artist." When the other person didn't fall over laughing or walk away in disdain, I realized it was OK.

Composition VI, 39 x 39 inches, acrylic on stitched textile©2010

Terry: Do you ever get into an artistic slump and if so, how do you rejuvenate yourself?

Deidre: The times I am most susceptible to this are when a show ends and the work comes back home. There's a tendency to doubt myself and what I'm doing. The cure seems to be to get away and enjoy a change of scenery. I especially love road trips, and I take a lot of photos. I don't work directly from my photos, but everything I see is absorbed into my subconscious and informs my work. When I come back home, I'm ready to work.

Looking at other people's artwork or reading about their process or inspiration is also a good way to think about things in a new way, but I have to limit myself so that I make sure the work I do is my own and not a copy of someone else's idea.

Permutations: Line Drawing #1, 32 x 32 inches, acrylic on stitched textile, ©2010

Terry: Please describe your studio activity, your work habit.

Deidre: I do freelance graphic design work, so some days my studio time is limited. On those days, I like to do the computer work first to get it out of the way, and then studio time is my reward. For me, a good day is when I can work on my art all day long. I can become very focused and I don't even like to stop to eat or go to bed. I try to get in at least some small amount of time in the studio each day that I'm home, no matter what else is going on.

I do more than one kind of work, which keeps me from getting bored. When I make art quilts, I stitch small scraps into larger pieces, then put a large piece together with batting and backing, and then I quilt the heck out of it. I have an industrial sewing machine that's very smooth and quiet, and I love the rhythmic, meditative act of stitching. I can do it for hours without getting tired or bored, as long as I have something to listen to. After the stitching comes the painting, which also involves a kind of meditation. While my conscious brain is engaged in listening to music or talk radio, my subconscious mind is busy making the decisions about where to stitch or what colors to use or where more paint is needed.

Fragment No. 4, 12 x 12 inches, acrylic and mixed media, ©2010

Terry: I understand that you recently completed your BFA degree. What prompted you to undertake this degree program? How has this affected your work and how you view your work?

Deidre: I mentioned earlier that I started as a mostly self-taught artist, with some workshops for techniques. As I became more serious and began to develop my own voice, I started to look for ways to get my work out into the world. I wanted to be in galleries, to place my work with art consultants, etc. I started researching possibilities and reading lists of opportunities. I looked into applying for a couple of residencies, and they were asking for references. I realized that I didn't really have anyone who could vouch for me as an artist. When I looked at lists of represented artists, it seemed that a large proportion of them had degrees. I realized that if I really wanted to be serious about this, getting some kind of a credential would be helpful.

I already had one degree from the school I eventually chose, so I didn't have to take any of the basic core stuff, just the art classes. It seemed like it would all just be a lot of fun! I wasn't prepared for how rigorous the program is and how much work it would be. But it was all worthwhile, and I learned so much more than I ever expected to. Being able to understand your own work in the context of the larger art world and our society and visual culture is invaluable. I was also given opportunities to learn several different mediums and techniques, and the never-ending papers helped me to develop my writing and research skills.

Besides that, I learned how to approach my work with intent and commitment, while understanding what I do and being able to value it fully. It's important to be able to talk about what you do and why you do it, and going to school was critical in furthering my ability to do that.

Façade VI, 38 x 63 inches, acrylic on stitched textile, ©2008

Terry: You describe yourself as a mixed media artist working in paint and fiber. What draws you to paint? What draws you to textiles? Are you working from the same source for all of your work regardless of media?

Deidre: Painting as a hobby came first, then I discovered quilting. Somewhat accidentally, I discovered that I could merge the two, and that was when I found something I was really excited about. I love textiles because of the tactile nature of the materials, feeling the fabric in my hands, watching the stitches go into it, and seeing the magic transformation from a flat surface into a landscape of texture and dimension. I love painting because I love color, whether it's bold or subtle, and it suits my working method. It lets me work in a layered way, and you can't really make a mistake because you can always add more.

My inspiration comes from textures in nature or manmade surfaces that are in the process of being transformed by nature. I'm intrigued by the way nature works with and against, the things we make - how sun and wind and rain and freezing makes metal rust or paint peel. The result is something beautiful and unexpected. I think about how at the precise moment in time that I might see that surface, it's only a tiny snapshot in history and it will continue to transform long after I'm gone. My work is about finding beauty in the unexpected and the impermanent.

Terry: What do you see as your biggest challenge in maintaining your art career? How have you dealt with this challenge?

Deidre: There are so many things to be afraid of: the decline of our economy and our society, getting older, failing health, etc. All of those things are a constant worry, but at the same time, making art is what keeps me sane. Right now, life is good, and I'll just keep making my art as long as I'm able.

Deidre in the studio.

Terry: If you could go anywhere and do anything you could dream, where would we find you and what would you be doing?

Deidre: You have to be careful with this kind of thing - it could be a case of "you might just get what you wish for." Maybe I'm just not a big dreamer, but I'm really happy with my life right now - my family, my friends, my studio, my work. Maybe if I could pick up everything and be in the French countryside, or a small Italian town, or even Santa Fe or Taos, that might be an improvement. But I also think I could be happy anywhere as long as I have art supplies and time to use them!

Terry: Thank you, Deidre, for your responses and for sharing your beautiful work.

To find out more about Deidre and her work, visit:


Select Exhibition and Shows

Solo Exhibitions

2010 Plane of Persistence, BFA Thesis exhibition, Metropolitan State College of Denver Center for Visual Art, Denver, Colorado

2008 Deidre Adams: Passages, Translations Gallery, Denver, Colorado

2008 Spaces and Places: Explorations in Mixed Media Textiles, Art in Public Places Program, Aurora, Colorado

Selected Group Exhibitions

2011 Quilt National, The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, Ohio

2010 Quilt Visions 2010: No Boundaries, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, California

2009 Sublime Surfaces, Dairy Center for the Arts, Boulder, Colorado

2008 12 Voices, Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, Michigan, and traveling

2008 Threadline, Missouri State University Art & Design Gallery - awarded Best in Show by Juror Jason Pollen

2008 Quilt Visions 2008: Contemporary Expressions, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, California


I love to hear from you so remember...commenting is FREE!


  1. I love this women's work Terry. Thanks for posting the interview.

  2. Thank you Tom. Deidre has a very strong style.

  3. Wonderful work and another interesting interview Terry. How interesting to go back and get a BFA. Thanks!

  4. Thank you Leslie for your comment. Yes, I applaud her for doing that. When I did my MFA the average age was a bit more than 35 and it was clear that sometimes you just have to have more life experience before you really know what you want and what you need. I think Deidre's work is unique and interesting.

  5. I love Deidre's work and was brousing through my list and saw the photo of the first piece of work and had to stop by, love them all. Great interview.

  6. Thank you for commenting Linda. Deidre is a real inspiration.

  7. Her marks are mesmerizing. I want to see her work in person. Thank you for posting this interview. I'm intrigued.

  8. Thank you Christine for your comment. I have enjoyed the relationship between her textile work and her paintings. Shows great continuity in her process and her thinking.

  9. Thanks for a great interview, Terry. Deidre's art and point of view are inspiring.

  10. Thank you so much Jill. Our field is growing and expanding everyday and it's refreshing to see work such as Deidre's which has such a fresh approach. Please come again. I appreciate your interest.

  11. I've just become familiar with Deidre and her work, so was pleased to find your interview with her. Thank you so very much!

  12. Great interview, Terry, with a wonderful artist and an even nicer person. I love the questions that you pose and the fact that Deidre gave such thoughtful answers. I'm lucky enough to own one of her pieces and, like all good artists, the marks and details and delectable bits are more wonderful in person.


    PS Have fun in Auburn - near my old stomping grounds!

  13. Thank you Judy! I love to see artists follow their own path and I feel Deidre is doing that. Please come again.