Debra Pearlman
The inner life of children is the subject of my art. My work begins with photographs I have taken, frequently images of children, captured spontaneously. I see iconic gestures in everyday moments, though I am not necessarily aware of their meanings as I shoot. The resulting images often are ambiguous and open to various interpretations. A child might appear simultaneously vulnerable and powerful, for example. Sometimes there is a suggestion of nostalgia, as adults are made privy to a world they cannot enter.

These images become source material, from which I make large-format photographic prints and textured, large-scale silkscreened prints on paper and canvas. These may be printed over painted layers of colors and abstract forms. The under-painting interacts with the image, sometimes serendipitously. After multiple layers of painting and printing, a veneer of glass beads, crushed glass, or magma may be applied to the surface, which both refracts and reflects light. I may scrape and alters the surfaces to emphasize contrasts and to focus the eye on specific areas. The scale of depicted figures is often life-size or larger, and in many of my images, the figure is seen from behind; depicting individual identity is not my objective.

As I work with and get to know an image, I often draw and paint small gouaches on vellum, compositions suggested by my photographs. I may make multiple versions over time, changing the images in subtle or extreme ways, through medium, scale, and orientation. When incorporated into installations, I refer to such works as graphic sculptures. Examples include Sand/Sleep and Double Cry, precursors of a major installation, House of Children. The process can be reversed; Some Girls, an installation of printed large-scale color acetate hangings, consists of images that became Glitter Girls, realized as a limited-edition silkscreen of nine images.

Editing decisions help to reveal meanings; the ambiguities and complexity of a seemingly serendipitous moment, the effects of context, and the multitude of possible interpretations continue to fascinate me. How we see, what we see, how we read and uncover meaning and context, recognize and make choices, the passion to share vision and experience and view our most vulnerable people—our children—is what drives my working life.