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