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Leaving a Mark

Painter Deborah Gooch’s style defies category, but it’s all about the storytelling

“I just love the joyful palette,” the artist says of this abstract work.

“I just love the joyful palette,” the artist says of this abstract work.

Many artists find a preferred mode of expressing their work and stick to it. Not so with Deborah Gooch, who straddles abstraction and realism with ease and often uses both styles in one painting. She describes her work as impulsive with a strong sense of narrative. She also calls it “all over the place.” And she seems to be thriving in that figurative place.

In the process of painting, Deborah often starts with one mode on the first layer and adds the other for the finished work. “It’s liberating for me to begin with an initial paint layer that I must fight against to achieve my final goal. It frees me to follow my intuition and keeps me open to the contributions of fate.”

Painting with a sense of narrative is the process of constructing a painting like telling a story, she says. “The paintings tend to tell me a direction. I just have to listen and pay attention. That’s why many of my paintings have so many things in them.” She points to a painting in the corner of her studio as an example of this. 

 “‘Iris’ started as a figurative piece, actually. I did it at the end of a workshop I taught years ago. I had a photograph of a woman with two kids on a swing, and I decided to paint them. I had no idea what else I was going to put on the painting at that time. I let things evolve. I thought, wouldn’t that look good with a donkey thrown in? And then I painted the irises in the background and called the work ‘Iris’ because she looked like that could be her name. I love that painting.”