Who: Debralee Elizabeth Marianna Iacobucci (aka DEMI)
What: Conceptual artist, painter and illustrator
When: 6pm, Tuesday March 20
Where: Pawtucket Armory, Exchange Street, Pawtucket
Why: This creative spirit isn’t afraid to be “appropriately inappropriate”
As I climbed the spiral stairs to Deb’s new studio space (which is housed inside a turret – or small tower – at the Pawtucket Armory building), I was met by a cool breeze on my face and the sound of global music infused with laughter. She greeted me at the top, barefoot, in flowing white pants, a fitted tank and one long feather earring. Her smile was huge… and contagious. Months of labor had culminated in this event: her DEMI Artistic Studios reveal party.
A small crowd of invited guests nibbled on appetizers and sipped champagne atop the roof, on to which her studio doors open. Although it was only the first day of spring, the sun shone bright and warm: The combination of the unseasonable weather and the breathtaking studio space was intoxicating. Breezy curtains flitted this way and that, tossed by gentle wind; white lights warmed the painted brick; the incandescent sunshine soon transformed to an ambient sunset.
When Deb took possession of the space in December, the turret was drab and unfinished — worlds away from its chic reincarnation. It’s her second studio, as the first is in her home. “My home studio is much more private,” she explained, as she climbed a tall ladder leading to the tower’s upper roof. I followed. “The turret is a public space for exposure, portfolio meetings and entertaining.” After taking in the view with a few other brave souls, we made our way back down.
Once we completed our (near) death-defying descent, we took time to peruse through myriad paintings and illustrations that were displayed in an antique trunk. “There’s a delicate line between illustration and fine art,” Deb said. “I create both.” I was instantly enamored with two works in particular. There’s a certain folk-art whimsy to her brush strokes, and her own ethereal nature is reflected in the dreamy expressions that inhabit her subjects’ faces.
The images she creates are inspired by visions of her own wild imagination. “Sometimes, these visions happen in my sleep; other times, in my waking life — like a daydream, but without the disconnected stare.” She likens her quixotic visions to deja vu. “I find [pieces of my dreams] in someone’s eyes or in phrases of stories.” Deb laughs loudly, openly; Deb laughs often. She flits around the party, from group to group, ever the social hostess.
While it would seem as if a woman so confident and so in-tune with her own place in this often esoteric world simply came out of the womb as such, appearances can be deceiving. “I was a closet artist until I received early acceptance to the top visual art school… Parsons School of Design in New York,” she says. “I left a structure of academia where many questions had only one answer for this new world of imagination, where answers were boundless.”
The focus of Deb’s art is ever changing as her life evolves, her skills develop and her mind matures. “I censor as I wish,” she says. “My art is my voice and my vice.” An adept children’s book writer and illustrator, she eventually found that she was limiting her full expression as an artist by solely producing in this genre. “Obviously, not everything is appropriate for children to read or see. So, I began creating fine art.” Traveling, her passion, has influenced her art.
While allowing herself to exist within a constant state of transformation and fluidity, the artist has definitely found her niche and developed a style. “I began studying African art and mythology… My work became multicultural, reflecting the concept of unity and oneness.” Her creations, born both of dreamscape and reality, are mixed with global tradition; perhaps this is the reason that ever-present folky playfulness seems to burst through her canvases.
The air took on a chill, but the festivities continued on into the night. Before we parted ways, I asked Deb what being an artist meant to her. She took from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” You can also check out her work on her Facebook page.