This article is from our ‘Celebration of Women’ campaign and first ASLI Magazine issue:
Deborah Brommer, 48, from Columbus, Ohio and Phoenix, Arizona.
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Deborah has loved art since being a child and has been involved in theatre and applied art her whole life. Deborah went to college at Ohio University in Athens, to study acting and ended up bouncing from major to major within the art school – graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Art History.
Here is our interview with Deborah:
What motivated you to deal with the subject of Empowerment in your art?
This piece was actually inspired by the Chelko Foundation which supports women’s freedom around the world and is on a mission to end their suffering.
Tell us why you chose this submission?
This piece is about the age old dichotomies of woman as goddess/slave, mother/whore, beauty/untouchable. The stone age relic of the Venus of Willendorf is painted on the torso of the model representing the ancient reverence for women as creators of life, yet in our “advanced” modern times women are still expected to be the ones taking care of the home, hence the classic yellow rubber gloves. Our society wants our women to have a lovely face and figure, to wear sexy lingerie, yet in some places they are still expected to keep their mouths shut when the men are speaking. My piece shows our heroine wearing fishnet stockings yet her face is painted as though she’s wearing a “reverse burka”, where only her eyes are covered. Her mouth is silenced by a bumble bee with the wings of a moth; the bee represents hard work and dedication and the moth is representative of transformation as well as the subtle meaning of always flying to the light which shows undying optimism. Covering our model’s sex organs is a beautiful flower (an homage to feminist artist Judy Chicago) which is lovely and beckoning, yet from that same flower flows rivers of blood which shows our lunar biology which has kept women separated, and shunned, and proclaimed “dirty” in many societies, but is actually the literal life blood of our species.
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?
I love the medium of body painting because the movement and emotion of a living person is added into the art, giving it a special kind of life. I am attracted to body painting because it combines the colour and expressionism of my painting with living sculpture; it is applied art, sculpture, and theatre all in one. I also find the impermanence of the art appealing, the fleetingness of the piece makes it more precious in a way, like a beautiful sunset, it is all the more sweet because it will soon fade away.
What is your process when creating?
I usually work with a theme of some sort, something I want to say, or a feeling I want to convey and I will research some visual ideas that I want to include, sketch out where the different elements will go on the body, and then the painting begins.
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?
Because I have a background in Art History, there are many artists that inspire me, I especially love expressionism and I love to incorporate a lot of colour in my work. I am often inspired by nature, by music, by performance, and by cultures from around the world. One of my biggest influences is the performances of Cirque Du Soleil.
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
I do think that I am a feminist, but I don’t know that feminists would agree. I am a strong minded, confident, and outspoken woman and I believe in equality for all people, but I really love the feminine side of womanhood, I like being a girly girl at times, I enjoy the trappings of being a female. I embrace the differences between men and women, I think that makes us interesting.
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
I live in such a progressive country and was raised by a family who empowered me to be who I wanted to be, that I never considered for one moment growing up that there was anything I couldn’t do, and when I am faced with the reality that that isn’t the norm for all women it is a shock and a disappointment. I think it’s important to show the world that every woman has the right to be who she wants to be.
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world and do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously?
I know for a fact that women and men are not equal in many areas around the world. I am a prolific traveller and I have had experiences in countries where there was a severe double standard for men and women. The experience that stands out most to me was a time in Morocco where I left a public bath and was forced to wear a scarf over my hair because it was wet, when I asked about what the reasoning was it was explained to me that wet hair means that you’ve just bathed and if men were to see my wet hair they wouldn’t be able to refrain from imagining me in the bath which would arouse them and then I wouldn’t be safe. I have been to a few countries where if men cause harm to women it is almost always considered the woman’s fault for somehow instigating it merely by her appearance. The beauty of women should not be hid or feared it should be adored!
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
My biggest issue is the lack of education on the importance of breastfeeding around the world. A great disservice has been done to women and children in developing countries when they are given formula to feed their babies. This formula has to be mixed with clean water, which is often hard to come by, and once the mother stops nursing and her milk no longer comes she has no choice but to continue giving formula, and the supply may now be getting low so it gets diluted even more with precious water and the babies suffer from malnutrition.
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
Art reveals emotion and ideas and desires in a way that words cannot. Art can communicate to your core the feelings it’s creator wants you to experience. Without Art our world would be a cold and silent place. There are many people in the world who have no voice and Art can be a way to speak when everything else is telling you to “shut up”.
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
I think my art in particular can create change because it is painted on the naked body. It forces many people out of their comfort zones yet helps to show that the human body can be admired as a work of art without being a sex object. It allows for beauty and soulfulness without shame. Also, because the art incorporates the human body it is much more expressive and emotional which can really speak to people in a way that other art forms may not.
What are your goals as with your art?
I want the world to fall in love with body painting and want to place it in their homes. I want people to feel so intrigued and enamoured that they want to have themselves body painted, and then they will find the art and beauty within themselves. It is amazing to see the transformation in people when they are painted for the first time; the timidness and discomfort are always replaced with pride and awe.
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
I’m currently working on some ideas for pieces inspired by the American Southwest, I have recently started to spend quite a bit of time out here and the vast landscapes and amazing colours are quite an inspiration to me!
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