Debra Olin is an artist who is captivated by intersections and connections, a fitting characteristic for someone who has been so devoted to helping our organization fulfill its mission of connecting people with art. As a practicing printmaker who hails from a sculpture background, for Debra the physical process of art making stems from making these connections—she views herself as a “constructor of imagery” who works “in collaboration with the [printing] press.”
Combining monoprint, drypoint, and collage with both paper and fabric, and manipulating materials to be used as stencils or textures, Debra builds up her experimental prints in layers to create both two and three dimensional works.
Debra finds inspiration from a wide array of sources, especially “the crazy, exotic forms” of the natural world and their interaction with the human form. Some of her constructed imagery uses attributes and trappings of humanity—clothing, household goods, and the food we depend upon to sustain ourselves—as a metaphor for the shelter and safety our bodies require. As an artist, Debra is drawn to explorations into what unites us as people. Many of her pieces incorporate elements of folklore and superstition and consider how stories and beliefs link otherwise divergent cultures.
Debra has been a donating artist to The Art Connection since 2006, with 2016 marking her 10th anniversary giving the gift of her art to social service agencies. To date, Debra has donated 19 monoprint collages, some of which incorporate additional constructive components like thread and teabags. Most recently, her work was placed at MassBay Community College and ABCD Changing Tracks Initiative.“I appreciate The Art Connection’s mission of bringing together artwork and nonprofit community-based organizations,” the artist remarks. “I have been to a number of receptions, where I have met the people who have chosen the work to hang on the walls of their facilities and also those who use the services. They are thrilled to have been a part of the process and to have their days enhanced with the art that surrounds them. It makes me feel good to be a part of this process.”
Beyond her own art donations, Debra has made an extraordinary gift to our program by hosting a special juried exhibition of our donating artists’ work at Brickbottom Gallery, where she is the gallery coordinator. The shows, Chain Reaction and Dream Weavers, held respectively in 2013 and 2015, celebrated the diverse talents of The Art Connection’s donating artists.
In 2015, Debra not only curated and hung the show, but also juried the submissions and imagined the theme, Dream Weavers, which honored The Art Connection’s 20th year and the vision of our founder, Fay Chandler. Taking a cue from Fay’s dream for giving the gift of art to those who wouldn’t otherwise access it, Dream Weavers highlighted artistic visions and work relating to hope and optimism with subject matter ranging from magical realism to environmental.
Debra is a founding member of the Brickbottom Artists Association, and maintains a studio at The Mad Oyster in Somerville. In her professional career, the artist marks being awarded the Rappaport Prize (administered through the DeCordova Museum) as a significant acknowledgement, not only because it was a “great boost for my psyche,” but also because the prize allowed her to purchase an etching press, which has had a great influence on her art making.
At the end of March 2016, Debra’s work will be included in TRANS-DIMENSIONAL, a 3D print show held in conjunction with the Southern Graphics Conference in Portland, Oregon, and in the international publication SELF PORTRAIT.
To learn more about Debra’s work, visit www.debraolin.com.