10 QUESTIONS FOR DEBILYNN FENDLEY

  Debilynn Fendley  works within cultural subgroups to produce both documentary and conceptual realism pieces in photography, printmaking, drawing, and painting. She holds advanced degrees in art and English and a terminal MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College. She strives to make work that crosses boundaries between subgroups and mainstream norms; currently she works within the biker, body modification, and alternative model subcultures and believes that her interactions with her models and the primary field research she does to understand the history and current ideologies of each group is as important as the work she creates with them. She hopes to extend her practice to inviting members of these subgroups to make art with her in addition to her practice of making art about them.

Debilynn Fendley works within cultural subgroups to produce both documentary and conceptual realism pieces in photography, printmaking, drawing, and painting. She holds advanced degrees in art and English and a terminal MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College. She strives to make work that crosses boundaries between subgroups and mainstream norms; currently she works within the biker, body modification, and alternative model subcultures and believes that her interactions with her models and the primary field research she does to understand the history and current ideologies of each group is as important as the work she creates with them. She hopes to extend her practice to inviting members of these subgroups to make art with her in addition to her practice of making art about them.

Q&A

1. What is different from your work than others when painting the figure now?
I can spot the work of the atelier trained artists in the show, and I both envy and look up to them.  I don’t have that background, and I wish I did.  And I see many of the female artists painting female figures.  I have always sought out male models and have always preferred the male figure.  I do work some with females now because of a lack of male models in my geographical area, but I still prefer the male figure.

2. How important is process versus end results?
The end work is absolutely derivative of the process.  I can’t achieve what I achieve without it.  Having focused on printmaking for a major portion of my life as an artist, process has become something I think about from the very beginning…layer after layer.  I instinctively start making decisions about which area I will work with, which colors come first, which come last, so on and so forth, even before I begin a sketch.

3. What is your ultimate goal when painting the figure?
My ultimate goal is to show the humanity of the person, the things inherent within that make them the same as but different from every other person on the planet.  I want to foster sympathy, empathy, curiosity, and/or understanding between the viewer and the person present in the painting.

4. What do you like best about your work?
The detail.

5. What do you do you like least about your work?
My slavery to the photograph, which always remains both my sketchbook and my ultimate source.

6. Why the figure?
Nothing else interests me quite as much.  The figure is never static.  I don’t think viewers look at a figure without asking themselves at least one question about the piece.  A landscape or a still life often can be dismissed as just a pretty picture; figures demand some sort of answer.

7. Which are your greatest influences?
Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, Will Wilson, Michael Bergt, Sally Mann, Joel Peter Witkin, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Timothy Barnwell, Stefan Gesell, Audrey Flack, Roberto Ferri, Shelby Lee Adams, Ed Martin, Steve Anchell.  There are a great number of photographers on that list because their work is so immediate and such a snapshot of humanity.

8. What is your background?
I grew in up in rural Arkansas without much access to art training early on. I was an isolated child without many friends. I discovered art history in the reference section of the library in the seventh grade and from then on made a habit of copying the old masters.  I finished a teaching degree in art, returned for my masters in both art and English, and at an older age returned for an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College in Vermont.  In addition, I have studied printmaking a number of places, chief amongst them Crownpoint Press, and photography under Steve Anchell.

9. Name three artists you'd like to be compared to in history books.
Audrey Flack, Diane Arbus, and Andrew Wyeth.

10. What is your favorite work in the exhibition besides your own and why?
All the Wanting in the World by Erin Milan.  It speaks to me in the place inside my heart where I now live.