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Debra Beers: Solo Exhibition

Mark Woolley Gallery, Portland
Dec 5 2000 - Jan 27, 2000

Debra Beers, Mowcee and Bill (2000),
oil on scrap metal

For more than ten years, Portland artist Debra Beers has evinced a strong sense of social and creative engagement that has drawn kudos from humanitarians and art critics alike - not that the two are necessarily inconsistent. Once a social worker and community activist, Beers significantly now draws and paints young street people, who represent the largely self-imposed underclass peculiar to rich nations, and who are perceived by the mainstream as "punks," "freaks" or just the latest manifestation of vehement counter-culture. She is particularly drawn to the complexity and vulnerability of those not yet completely abandoned to despair and human impairment. Beers looks through the body paint, tortured hair and pierced flesh and finds substance. Working on pieces of jagged-edged scrap metal and other detritus, remnants of the same dumpster environment that (if not, ironically, defining them) surrounds these people, Beers wields oil and oil stick in portraits of great insight and sensitivity, which reviewers have enlikened to Holbein, Courbet and Siqueiros. As in the style known as Social Realism or, flippantly, the "Ashcan School," Beers continues to press the long-contested point about the appropriateness of certain subject matter and in what unlikely settings truth and beauty may be found.

© Ted Lindberg