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Deb Ehrens

Peony Breeze, 2020, Archival pigment print, Courtesy of the Artist.

Visit Deb Ehrens’ website

Hear from the Artist


My name is Deb Ehrens and I am delighted and honored to have Peony Breeze here at the Newport Biennial.

The most common response and question I get to this work is:

It looks like one of those Dutch Masterpieces.
Is it a painting or a photograph?

You would think that the answer to this question would be pretty straightforward. But really it isn’t. In creating this body of work called “Stillness,” I draw very heavily on the practice of both photography and painting. I create the images with a digital camera. In total darkness I sculpt light as I photograph to accentuate the form I want to emphasize in the composition. Then I sit down like a painter with a blank canvas in my computer. I lay down first the darkest darks in my composition. Then slowly and gradually I add back color and light from my series of digital negatives. I am using that same thought process of the renaissance painters, that chiaroscuro, using light and shadow to build form, to create depth.

I could do a whole art history talk about this image and its links to other renaissance painters like Rachel Ruysch and Barbara Regina Dietzsch. But what compels me to create is how it makes me feel.  As a late in life artist, I still have a childlike sense of wonder, at this process of making something flat feel so real.

There is a copy of Peony Breeze hanging in my studio – right in front of where I try to do my daily exercise routine. After taking that final deep breath and opening my eyes, there are those peonies – a visual meditation on life, reminding me that no matter the stage of life, or the constraints of the frame in which I find myself, I can choose to dance in the breeze.