ABOUT VALERIE DEAS
"My creative process stems from my natural inclination to create from inspiration. I make multimedia pieces using everything from acrylic paint, oil pastels, watercolors, and graphite, to gesso, fabric, and photography. My work draws on diverse artistic traditions and genres to explore depth and movement in two dimensions, often through abstract figures. I began with more traditional quilting techniques, and I continue to use that formal training—but I never wanted to stay in a box. The Gee’s Bend quilts showed me that I could improvise, avoid straight lines, and break the rules. I developed a more abstract quilting practice that I began to combine with my painting and drawing, and I realized I could bring cubism to textiles. I also integrate photography in my work to blow up images and create new fabrics. My painting becomes part of my quilting and vice versa. I add texture and dimensionality to my textile art with overlays of organza, layers of gesso, appliqué, and perspectival techniques borrowed from realist painting. I often work with monochrome palettes to focus on textures (inspired by everything from batik fabric to woodcuts) and strong lines (evoking Mexican muralism).
My works explore what we reveal and what we conceal, what we see in the people and the world around us. I rarely portray faces realistically. Instead, abstract figures invite the audience in, asking them who and what they see there. My work similarly reaches out into the world, drawing on international art and craft techniques, dance, music, and global landscapes. The rhythms and lines of everything from Senegalese dance and belly dance to samba and jazz show up in my pieces. I have taught in public schools and led community workshops, always urging people to experiment, be creative, let art be healing and not limiting. I have brought together my quilting background and my abstract painting to arrive at a mixed-media form that is constantly evolving. But this is not an endpoint. There are always new works in progress, new forms to work in, and new inspirations. I am at my best when I work freely."
Download Artist Statement
Valerie Deas was born in the Bronx, raised in Harlem, and has resided in the Bronx for more than three decades. She has taught art professionally for over 25 years in public school classrooms and community workshops. Valerie is a multimedia artist whose work often combines painting and textiles to explore dimensionality and color. Her work also draws from the rhythms and lines of music and dance traditions. She cites African art and Indigenous art of the Americas as inspirational, alongside the work of Picasso, El Greco, Wassily Kandinsky, Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and others.
Valerie has participated in more than 25 group shows. Her work has also appeared in two international shows, Book Art in Brazil and the International Textile Biennial: Beyond Category - Visions of Jazz in Fiber in San Jose, Costa Rica, curated by Carolyn Mazoolmi. Valerie’s solo exhibition, Thread and Paints, took place at Gallery M in Harlem, New York. Valerie's work has been on exhibition at Lincoln Center, Rush Gallery, Kente Royal Gallery, and Blue Door Art Gallery. Her quilts have been touring with the African American Fiber Art Exhibition throughout the country. In 2021, Valerie was awarded a City Artist Corps Grant to bring some of her artwork to her community. Valerie has been a Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) Community Engagement Grantee for two consecutive years (2022 and 2023). In 2022, Valerie restored six Gee's Bends Quilts for SoHarlem’s exhibition at the Malt House. In 2023, her artwork, The Three Women, was selected as the cover art for the 2nd edition of the novella, My Xanthi by author Stephanie Cotsirilos.
Valerie was the Programming Board Chair of the Riverdale Art Association and a member of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQUA), Blue Door Art Center, Bx 200 Visual Artist Directory, Harlem Girls Quilting Circle (HGQC), and SoHarlem Collective.