January-February 2019 | A FORCE OF NATURE




For Ocean City artist Debbi Dean-Colley, a world of inspiration is her canvas

Written By: Alison Clary | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

Henry David Thoreau once said, “The world is but a canvas for our imagination.” For local mixed-media artist Debbi Dean-Colley, this quote rings especially true.

Debbi’s extensive artwork collection, which includes a current exhibition at the Art League of Ocean City, consists mostly of unconventionally yet artistically reimagined versions of items Debbi has uncovered in nature.  

“I consider myself a hunter-gatherer because I personally scavenge all the elements used in my artwork,” said Debbi.

She sources most of her artistic components from the local environment, often from walks through Assateague Island. Debbi doesn’t rely on one specific type of artistic element, but rather she uses a wide variety of media for her creations.

“I go for anything raw or organic that catches my eye,” said Debbi.

A 35-year vegetarian, Debbi maintains a deep admiration for the animal kingdom and channels this respect into her artwork. She looks for ways to display a connection of spirituality and purpose to Mother Nature in every piece of art she produces.

“I often find myself incorporating faces into my creations, specifically eyes, because they are the window to the soul,” said Debbi. 

Debbi’s artistic genre of choice wasn’t always mixed media. In her early art days, Debbi attended the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, where she studied metal design, jewelry making, and even pottery-wheel throwing. It wasn’t until later when Debbi was inspired to shift her focus to mixed media, for which she is primarily self-taught.

Now, with an impressive slew of local exhibitions to her credit, Debbi’s love for the arts spans far beyond her mixed-media creations. She currently serves as the Art League of Ocean City’s Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. In this role, she strives to get the local community involved in and inspired by the arts.  

Part of Debbi’s outreach includes the Art and Soul program, which she started last year with the help of a grant. The Art and Soul program occurs monthly at the Art League of Ocean City and it allows members of the public to create art without boundaries. Debbi and the Art League began the Art and Soul program to help aid the local fight against opioid addiction. In its first year, the program has benefited the community through providing people who are suffering — whether through addiction, mental illness, or grief — a positive outlet to heal. 

Debbi hopes to continue the Art and Soul program in the future and she plans to expand her outreach efforts on behalf of the Art League of Ocean City. She also wants to keep inspiring her two daughters, Damiana (17) and Kaya (15), who have inherited her passion for art. 

Peggy Nadine Katona
Posted On: 1/7/19 1:08 pm
Debbie is a wonderful example of letting one's passion happen for the good of all. Namaste'
Elaine Bean
Posted On: 1/7/19 9:59 am
A truly talented artist who inspires so many others. Congratulations, Debbi
Diane Willoughby
Posted On: 1/6/19 9:12 pm
I’m definitely a fan of Debbi’s beautiful eclectic Art but it’s her obvious dedication and love for her lovely daughters as well as Debbi’s commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle that I most admire! Lastly, my small collection of her work continues to bring me joy on a day basis!
Kari Ann Shearer
Posted On: 1/6/19 12:10 pm
Debbi is an inspiration to everyone who knows her. She is one of the most talented people I know. Her work is beautiful! ❤️
Barbara Dean
Posted On: 1/6/19 9:28 am
I am very proud of my daughter. Not only is she an artist but a great mother for my granddaughters. I am blessed to have a beautiful daughter and I am very proud of her.