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This Bitter Earth

Paintings and drawings by Deborah Wasserman, April 12 - May 18th, 2024

Kuma Lisa Gallery

56 Eldridge St

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Photo credit, installation shots: Alessandro “Fresco” Cerdas

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Click here to read a recent exhibition review by WhiteHot Magazine

Click here to read a recent exhibition review by Art Spiel

Kuma Lisa is pleased to announce This Bitter Earth, Deborah Wasserman’s solo show featuring a group of landscape oil paintings and ink drawings that manifest Wasserman’s interest in earth’s crises, migration, and the pursuit of belonging.

With energetic brushstrokes, rich surfaces, and rhythmic vertical lines in her compositions, Wasserman conjures up sweeping landscapes that echo her desire to find solace and deepen her roots in an imaginary native land. Born in Brazil and raised in Israel by parents who were themselves children of migrants, Wasserman moved to the United States as a young adult, eventually settling in the New York City borough of Queens. At heart, Wasserman is a nomad, traveler, and seeker. Her landscapes are hybrids — melanges of real and imagined places that reflect her personal and collective histories.

This Bitter Earth (2023) depicts a land with scorched mountains, flooded valleys, fires, and rings of smoke. Its skewed perspective, fractured horizons, and sunken terrains evoke our global collapse.

Creatures of the Light (2021), in a nod to magical realism, shows a body of water with floating lily pads. The two hands that rise from the water signal a cry for salvation and protection while the eyes gazing beneath the water represent the inherent consciousness of water, perhaps seeing ”eye to eye” with Mother Nature.

Migrating Crops (2021) shows a ghostly figure that appears behind a row of crops, some dried up and shriveled. Here Wasserman brings up the themes of climate migration and dispossession. We are reminded of the indigenous populations whose culture and habitation were destroyed by excessive heat and drought.

In Wasserman’s view, which is aligned with the ecofeminist movement, patriarchal forces oppress nature and women alike, destroy natural resources for quick profits, and are careless about future generations. As a mother of daughters, Wasserman’s connection to this concept is personal and deeply felt.

Wasserman’s creative process is spontaneous and visceral. Her practice centers around multiple stages of layering and erasing, slowly letting the painting reveal itself. Oil paint is dripped, poured, scratched, wiped away, and applied again. Every inch of the canvas is carefully developed, its parts as equally great as the whole. The artist also uses torn rags and clothes, which she paints after attaching them to the canvas — an intentional reference to her process and to the toil of womens’ lives and labor.

As Agnès Varda once stated, “If we opened people up, we'd find landscapes [...],” and this statement beautifully encapsulates Wasserman’s visceral approach to this body of work. The genre of landscape painting allows her to look inward and use her own personal story to discuss the universal search for identity and belonging. She also looks outward, bringing attention to the ecological disaster of our times while also centering her oeuvre around femininity.

About the Artist

Deborah Wasserman is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and a Skowhegan fellow. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including at The Queens Museum, The Bronx Museum, and White Columns. She is the recipient of grants from The New York Foundation for the Arts, The New York State Department of Cultural Affairs, The Puffin Foundation, and the Queens Council On The Arts, among many others. Most recently, she completed a public artwork commissioned by the New York City Department of Transportation.

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