Expert Witnesses

Layering roots into a soil horizon.

Layering roots into a soil horizon.

I was taught by expert lookers that there is more to know than just the surface.

I grew up in small Midwestern towns, spending summers on my grandparent’s farm with storytellers—people who noticed the ordinary but remarkable things that surround us. “Look at that,“ my grandmother would say as she pointed out a piece of bark, a shadow, bird, flower, or tree. “See how the light is dancing on the water?” my grandfather would ask. Then, after pointing out some ordinary thing, they’d give me a little bit more information like where a specific rose in our garden came from. “Grandma’s mother brought that yellow rose from her garden in Virginia.” Or, “see that outflow of water and those stones?” and I would receive a little geology lesson about the exact spot where we were standing.

There is always more to know, and knowing more can deepen your connection to a place. That way of experiencing the world led me to study history as well as art and has me wanting story to be a part of my visual expression. The story shapes what I feel, and the feeling shapes how I use the materials.  For example, fabrics that reflect or absorb light can change how active or calm the surface will be. Can I make you feel what I see and know?

As a practicing artist, I exercise my curiosity about any place I want to express in my artwork. I use mixed media and fiber techniques in painterly layers to effectively express the visual richness I experience in the natural world, striving for the viewer to feel what I see.


Deborah Foutch