Deborah Zlotsky: A Feminizing Perspective

An Introduction by Mary Kathryn Jablonski

Deborah Zlotsky’s paintings are bold and striking, but it is her drawings that have always captivated me. I include here two of her wildly imaginative earlier works, which to some, may look like strange creatures or glimpses of insides of bodies. These drawings from 2009-10 were made with loose graphite on mylar (a type of plastic film). Her works from 2022 have evolved in the direction of her heroic paintings but retain that magnificent strangeness and magnetism that always mesmerizes. She speaks about her influences and this quality in her artist statement, which applies both to her paintings and drawings.


An Artist Statement

For me, a painting or drawing makes concrete the intersection between visual language and lived experience. Studying art history was my entrance into art-making, and a continuing love of art from the past informs the language of my new work: elements from the mash-up of abstraction and illusion in early Renaissance frescoes; the radical shape-shifting of Surrealism; and the countercultural color and groove of 1960s psychedelia and Pop Art. History and the passage of time are conveyed in the way I handle materials as well. When I paint, drips, smears, and abrasions remain in the work, uncorrected and vital. These imperfections trace the history of the making, and, as a metaphor, the accidents and complexities of living. As I age and experience the daily mismatch between my body and my consciousness, I’m drawn to incongruities, to creating paintings and drawings that seem old and new, flat and fleshy, geometric and figurative, bold and soft, constructed and alive. 

I chose the title “Galatea” for a recent exhibition of paintings at Robischon Gallery in Denver to refer to the idea of art coming alive, an idea that stretches throughout art history. In Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the ivory sculpture of Galatea comes to life through the intervention of Venus and the kiss of her maker, Pygmalion. In my paintings and drawings, I discover the anthropomorphic in shapes and colors, even if the inherent flatness of stripes and shapes may make them unlikely candidates for animation, with their references to modernism and minimalism. Bright colors, organic mutations, and a shift from surface to dimensional space disrupts those past visual strategies and allow a feminizing perspective to open pathways into the speculative inner life of abstraction. Where one shape rests upon another with enough volume to cast a shadow, that moment of touch becomes more than juxtaposition; it becomes tenderness and support. Where two flat shapes curve away from their hard-edge geometries toward each other, the unexpected magnetism creates a sense of mutuality and connection. The realist passages within the abstraction help me to discover the narrative potential of what is often understood in more formalist terms.