Born in 1962, Austin, TX
She lives and works in Austin, TX
Deborah Roberts received her MFA from Syracuse University.
She is the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, the Fountainhead Residency, the Ginsberg-Klaus Award Fellowship, the Ox-Bow Artist Residency, Presidential Point of Light Award, Syracuse University Graduate Fellow Award, and was designated the Best in Show at the Syracuse University MFA exhibition in 2014.
Roberts’s work has been exhibited at The Studio Museum of Harlem, The Drawing Center, and Galerie Lelong & Co. in New York; the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago; Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston; and the Carver Museum in Austin. Recent exhibitions include Deborah Roberts: The Evolution of Mimi at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta (through May 19th), 4 Texas: The Next Chapter at The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio (through May 9th), and New Acquisitions at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, as well as a public project at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.
Here is below a text written at the occasion of the exhibition at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles “Fragile but Fixable” (June 2018) that enlightens us very well her purpose and technique
Deborah Roberts creates powerful and visually arresting collages that explore the complexities of girlhood, self-image, popular culture, and the legacies of racism. In Fragile but Fixable, Roberts continues to address the traumas, challenges, and vulnerabilities faced by young black girls at adolescence—a critical time when they are building their individual identities and their minds are easily influenced by white racial standards of beauty and the clichés, myths, and stereotypes of black identity proliferated through the media, as well as the real-life abuse and violence that some of them experience in public and in private.
Combining found photographs, painting, text, and drawing, Roberts constructs her prismatic subjects from a myriad of sources, including images of girls, radical and historical figures, and contemporary female role models—from Rosa Parks and Michelle Obama to Gloria Steinem and Willow Smith—altered beyond recognition to create portraits that adhere to a more universal standard that is inclusive of women of color. Each work is an amalgamation of several or more figures—a reflection of the complexities of identity and race, and a metaphor for the way we construct our own complicated subjectivities from multiple sources. Often featuring extra appendages—diplomatically shaking hands, boxing, praying, supporting, or affectionately embracing each other—their gestures convey a range of communication while their multi-faceted faces, etched with the weight of their former context, extort a new fearless archetype. The heroines in Fragile but Fixable are finding themselves, some expressing vulnerability, all possessing strength—and through a process of collective identification, empathy, and healing these fractured “everygirls” are made whole.
We knew already the wonderful collages celebrating the Afro-American woman by Lorna Simpson. Nowadays we have those powerful collages questioning the very identity of African-American young girls. This would be the perfect 3D version of the complex stories, African-American novelist Tony Morrison would describe in her novels.
Actually when looking at Deborah Roberts we realize that this visual approach of questioning the very identity with collages is so strong that it would work for any individual.
All those elements: complexity of content shown with a minimal expression, the questioning about the very identity, the possibility to transcend that question to any other individual, all of that make Deborah Roberts, the perfect Established Artist.