Debra Ramsay is an abstract artist working in the disciplines of painting, drawing, and installation. She maintains a full-time studio practice in New York City.
Ramsay has exhibited her work internationally for the past three decades, including in Denmark, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Solo exhibitions in the United States include the Hunterdon Museum in Clinton, NJ, 2024, Brattleboro Museum in Brattleboro, VT, 2017; Odetta Gallery, Brooklyn, and 57 W 57th Arts, NY, 2016. Additional recent exhibitions include Field Guide at the Garrison Art Center, Garrison, NY (2024) Reflection Mere at Marquee Projects, Bellport, NY, Yi Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, (de)coding at the Visual Arts Center of NJ, and Embody at the Ely Center for Contemporary Art in New Haven.
She was awarded a 2018 residency at the Golden Foundation in New Berlin, NY, a 2016 residency at the Albers Foundation, a 2013 residency at the Golden Foundation in New Berlin, NY, and 2012 a fellowship at BAU Institute in Otranto, Italy. The Hofstra University Museum of Art and Brooklyn College acquired her work in 2021.
In Spring 2020, Ramsay was the featured visual artist in The Cincinnati Review, and in 2017 her work was included in an exhibition and publication of the same name, Chromotopia: An Illustrated History of Colour. The book by David Coles was published by Thames and Hudson.
"My focus is on the beauty and enigma of light and color. Light can energize or subdue pigments; both effects are sublime. This action fosters an experience of time and brings the viewer into the current moment. In unison with concepts developed by the Light and Space artists, the phenomena of light and shadow in natural environments are my foundational core. I crave beauty and work to reduce the visual to utter simplicity. My paintings embody a dynamic between being fully realized abstract paintings and remaining arrested moments in a state of undoneness. Making paintings is a process of accumulating observations. The colors and gestures are markers of time and change, and place. Buddhist philosophy has taught me nothing is permanent. As homage to impermanence, I make work that shifts in appearance due to changes in light and the viewer’s location relative to the artwork. Translucent supports allow the changing light in the room to pass through the paint, at times casting shadows against the wall, making the artwork dynamic, and reminding us life is always changing. I make artwork to see the mutual interaction between body, mind, and environment."
Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.
I lived in a rural area of NY State as a child, lived on an island in the West Indies for about a year, moved to Oregon and raised sheep, chickens, donkeys for 12 years before moving back to NYC. Studied art and science at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and Oregon State University. I've been working as a full-time artist for 3 decades.
What kind of work are you currently making?
My work has a conceptual focus, exploring how to visualize time... through color change. Nature has been a willing partner in providing examples and data. My current ongoing project is making abstract paintings of the plumage colors of birds migrating through Central Park. This work feels like a homage to nature itself and specifically devotional objects to each species of bird I am studying.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I'm up in time to watch the sunrise, fit some exercise in before the studio day begins. I'm most happy when I'm waiting for paint to dry, so I intersperse other tasks in between painting sessions.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
I'm spending a lot of time watching birds, the sky, the East River. I'm reading Ways of Being, Animals, Plants, Machines: The Search for a Planetary Intelligence by James Bridle.
Where can we find more of your work?