FREAK OUT!! Debra Livingston

Debra Livingston has worked as a professional artist and educator for over thirty-five years. Graduating from the Queensland College of Art. Queensland, Australia, began a career in illustration and graphic design working for studios and freelancing. During this time exhibited and sold pencil and acrylic personal works which have been purchased for collection and awarded honors in many art competitions. She studied visual communication and photography and has a Doctorate in Creative Arts, Photography and lectures at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Whilst she still works with acrylics and mixed media, photography is at the forefront of her practice due to teaching and time limitations, having been selected as a finalist in the recent prestige Australian national Head On Photographic Portrait Prize, and month of May photography festival, shown at the India Photofest, Hyperadad, and ‘Photoville’ photography festival, New York City and portraits selected for the juried published SeeMe book for ‘The Exposure Award: Portraiture Collection’ and ‘See more Beauty’.

Debra Livingston has worked as a professional artist and educator for over thirty-five years. Graduating from the Queensland College of Art. Queensland, Australia, began a career in illustration and graphic design working for studios and freelancing. During this time exhibited and sold pencil and acrylic personal works which have been purchased for collection and awarded honors in many art competitions. She studied visual communication and photography and has a Doctorate in Creative Arts, Photography and lectures at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Whilst she still works with acrylics and mixed media, photography is at the forefront of her practice due to teaching and time limitations, having been selected as a finalist in the recent prestige Australian national Head On Photographic Portrait Prize, and month of May photography festival, shown at the India Photofest, Hyperadad, and ‘Photoville’ photography festival, New York City and portraits selected for the juried published SeeMe book for ‘The Exposure Award: Portraiture Collection’ and ‘See more Beauty’.

Tell Us About Your Current Series
With a focus on fine art photography as a means to make images that draw the viewer into the now of human nature is to relay the experiences of people through portraiture. I partake in a relationship to the stories that unfold while photographing the subjects, but also sometimes help the sitter create a fantasy to bring the memories, emotions and expressions to the forefront. I photograph people both in and out of their environment because I am curious about what lays behind their eyes, where they have been and where they hope to go. I go through a lot of experimentation in order to produce a work that speaks to the audience.  

I am working with a group of students getting back to basics using various hand crafted media, starting with linocut to be included in our local university gallery for 50 years of print exhibition in April.

Do you remember the 1970’s and if so what are three highlights of that time frame for you.
Actually, I am not sure I remember too much about that period, I would have been at college at the time. I do remember though, my girlfriend and I would dress up and go to the local ‘Discotheque’, and just dance. I mean our Disco was not the same as those across the world. I was not really into Disco and preferred rock ‘n’ roll, but was fascinated by the fashion of the time.

Tell us about the artwork you are submitting for the exhibition.
I have always had a feel for handcrafts, and often used a lot of beads, string and texture included in previous paintings and I liked to make things, attractive objects, jewellery and clothes. The ‘Disco Shoes’, are an extension of this previous work, and I enjoyed the memory of making. 

My artwork takes a satirical view of the fashion trends of the 70s Disco era, in particular the platform shoes crafted in sequined material, beads and leather. The fashion counterculture of the previous decade had changed dramatically to become a colorful expression of sequins, glitter, gold and silver, pulsating to bright, flickering, colored lights and recorded music with the throbbing beat of disco. The 1970s discotheques were places where glamour and fantasy reigned, where fashion was about wearing clothes that complemented the glamour and drama of disco dancing. Not a completely new fashion, the platform shoe comeback became a popular fetish in the Disco era, alongside the bellbottom pants worn by both men and women which indicated changing attitudes in a unisexual culture. During this era, designers brought platform shoes to new ‘dizzy’ heights, building 7 to 8 inch stacked heels and covering the shoes in rhinestones, sequins, and other adornments. Essentially, for the Disco dance scene, the shoe was an important adornment to the foot, transcending class, gender or status. As Sigmund Freud suggests, the foot is a phallus, the shoe giving the not so appealing naked foot a mystery and allure, where insertion of the foot into the shoe makes it symbolically complete … to dance disco.

Do you use photography as a reference for your artwork?
Even though my focus is now mostly on photography, when using handcrafts I prefer to conceptualize through using the pencil or paint on a sketchbook first then to paper or canvas. Basically I use photography as reference sometimes and other times no, depending on the project at hand. The Disco shoes just developed through just doing without sketching. I have a good grasp on fashion.

Do you listen to music while you work?
Mostly, when drawing or painting a variety of music, from classic rock, techno, classic, and modern rock and sometime just silence, depending on the mood.

How do you see the current state of the art market in response to your body of work? (Is there a demand and is it selling?)
My previous work before becoming a teacher, sold well and in collections. I am still building my new self as a fine art photographer as to where I am heading with my work, which I hope will bring new rewards. I will always paint or print, as this is something that never leaves you. I still get commissions.

Have you experienced a eureka moment while working on the artwork for Freak Out?
I think my eureka moment was when I finished the shoes and created the boxes way ahead of time and you can actually wear them… well I could fit into one pair, but they are so high I had to sit in a chair to photograph them.

What collections would you like your work to end up in?
That is something that one would hope to happen, any global private and public collections would be ideal.

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