DEBORAH FORMAN: ON ABSTRACTION

Miller White Fine Arts
Jun 18, 2020 7:23PM

As manager of Miller White, my role is made all the more meaningful to me when engaging the privilege of writing about our artists, each one a powerhouse of individuality, integrity and intelligence. Deborah Forman is one such artist, both a major contributor to the intellectual canon of American and Asian contemporary art, as well as a skilled and insatiable investigator into the myriad ways abstract art informs and enriches her own life. Whether processing high art through her mixed-media works, digital art and written word or a handful of mixed media, her efforts illuminate a lifetime rife with aesthetic impulse and accomplishment. Essentially, a rare and wonderful thing. Here follows my own words on Ms. Forman, excepted from her book, Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: On Abstraction, Schiffer Publishing, 2015, an award-winning professional monograph on forty-five Cape Cod artists working in abstraction. Susan Reid Danton, M.A., 2020

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When Debbie Forman asked me to contribute an essay about her art for the above book, I was both flattered and delighted. I had already cultivated an immense respect for her dedication to highlighting the significant contribution Cape Cod artists make to the world of art.*

Meeting Forman for the first time, I immediately felt the impact of a person with a singular aesthetic, one that expresses intelligence, elegance, and grace. When seeing her art for the first time, the very same held true. In fact, whether crafting a story or a vibrant collage, Forman exhibits her insightful, independent, pioneering spirit, and it shows. She is intrigued by the world around her, and has been from her earliest memory. Indeed, this openness defines all of Forman, whatever her endeavor, in a most striking and welcoming fashion.


Musical Interlude, 2015, Mixed Media/Acrylic, 32x24

Forman’s compositions are immediately engaging and reminiscent of the conspicuous forms originated by Picasso and Braque, of Matisse’s rich palette and the sculptural textures of Frank Stella. In her own studio, one finds a diminutive, intimate space, facing north and overlooking treetops toward the Brewster flats and Cape Cod Bay. It is crammed with diverse materials through which she can browse for hours, searching for the forms, colors, and textures that inspire her. “I love shapes but color is just as important,” she says, adding, “Even in my home, I see the arrangement of its objects in the context of a painting.” Her fascination with the silhouette reveals a clear nod toward an early interest in apparel design that today reflects her manifest skill in assemblage. These influences, combined with her effortlessly cosmopolitan style, underscore the universal appeal of her works.


Storm Warning, 2017, Mixed Media/Acrylic, 14x32

Pictorial structure is also vital to Forman’s efforts. Using a system of reach and withdraw, she explores vast amounts of visual data, distilling the gems that define her ecstatic pieces. She applies paint and these carefully selected points of reference—a photo, a ticket stub, a fragment of gift paper, a cutting from a magazine or newspaper—which are then recycled through a flow of texture, translucency, and, in particular, the expressive use of line. What results is a perfect marriage of nuance and dynamic focus.

Forman’s art is broadly defined by the emotional connections she forges with her studio materials. Her paintings and collages reveal a measure of artistic finery that is an utter joy to behold. “Writing is intellectual; in the studio, I am at peace,” with color, form, movement, and rhythm as the means to this end. She is a true lyricist, building relationships around representational images within her abstract compositions. Again, real communication is a vital component. “I am a word person, but even when you write, you want to draw a picture. Although my work is abstract, I need something representational to bring in an element of the real world for viewers to connect with.”

Blue Note, 2017, Mixed Media/Acrylic, 22x16

Forman is a contextual thinker in the truest sense. Her accomplishments involving the written word have indeed informed her so that where there is no coherence, the goal remains elusive. Likewise, a visual composition without balance or coherence will cause the eye to become stuck. Forman instinctually blends this insight into her process to create abstract works of singular harmony and elegance, offering the viewer an elaborate repertoire of exuberant forms and colors, which shift and tilt upon one another like really, really good jazz.

Susan Reid Danton is managing director of Miller White Fine Arts in South Dennis, Massachusetts.

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* Deborah Forman is the author of four books published by Schiffer Publishing: Perspectives on the Provincetown Art Colony, a two-volume history (2011); Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: Images of Land and Sea (2013); Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: People & Places (2014); Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: On Abstraction (2015); Art from Cape Cod: Selections from the Cape Cod Museum of Art(Schiffer, 2016), co-written with former museum director Edith Tonelli. Deborah also wroteHorizon by the Sea: Paintings by George Xiong (2015); Shaping Cultural Diversity: Paintings by Duoling Huang (2017); and an essay forThe Art of Carmen Cicero (Schiffer, 2013). Two of her essays are included in The Tides of Provincetown catalogue, published in conjunction with the 2011 New Britain Museum of American Art’s exhibition. She wrote the script, conducted the interviews, and worked on the filming for Art In Its Soul, an award-winning documentary on the history of the Provincetown art colony, aired on public television stations nationwide.

Miller White Fine Arts