“There's still a place for beauty in art.”
“I want to surround myself with color, beauty, culture, and pattern, creating a world for myself,” Devyn explains, gesturing excitedly, her dark eyes shining. We are sitting together in Terra Café, a coffee shop near my studio, talking about art. I’m mesmerized by this young woman’s energy and obvious love for what she does.
Devyn is a painter and also a ceramic and fiber artist. She has a studio at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem, the city where she has lived most of her life. Currently, Devyn is in a place of transition in her life, having just gotten married and bought a house. But ideally, her studio schedule would involve a morning routine, with 5-6 hours of uninterrupted solitude. A lot of her work is “self-conscious” in its early stages, so it’s important that she has privacy when she works.
Devyn’s paintings are large, bright, and saturated with color. Some paintings are abstract, while others are representational, with mythic and sacred themes. The subject matter and the jeweled tones and patterns remind me of stained-glass windows or ancient Byzantine mosaics. All of her paintings are lush, layered, glowing objects of beauty.
“I’ve been warned that beauty is a ‘bad word’ in the art world,” I say, sipping my kombucha tea. It is true that ever since I started pursuing art seriously, I have been cautioned against “Beauty” many times by well-meaning, more-experienced artists.
Devyn just laughs at this idea. “I know what resonates with me,” she says with confidence. “I’m informed by those things…but it’s not about making it pretty, it’s about making it my own. It’s about telling my story.”
Devyn’s story is that of a rich cultural heritage. She is American, her mother is Colombian, and her father is both African American and Jamaican. These cultures provide an endless source of inspiration to Devyn, and she uses fabric and textiles as a “doorway” into them. You can see these colorful fabrics collaged onto the paintings as well as added onto the ceramic vessels that she makes.
Devyn explains that her love of textiles was instilled early in life, by her Colombian grandmother, with whom she spent a lot of quality time. Her grandmother was always very crafty and especially proficient in needlepoint.
“Whatever she could get her hands on to make beautiful, she did,” Devyn says proudly, sipping her own kombucha tea. I close my eyes and try to imagine the older woman sewing with her granddaughter, and slowly decorating the world…
“Art to me is a vehicle that elevates,” Devyn insists. “It makes you step out of those dark places. It all comes down to the space I surround myself with. I create a space you can dwell in.”
I look at her painting, “Eva”, which is oil pastel and acrylic on canvas, 24x36 inches. A young Latina woman stands solemnly beneath a crimson dome, surrounded by a deep blue sky. She stands in an abundant garden of green plants, white calla lilies, and bird-of-paradise flowers. An earthen vessel occupies the bottom of the painting near the woman’s stomach, perhaps alluding to her womb. A white dove perches on the rim of the vessel, and both the dove and the woman have golden halos. The painting overflows with life and beauty, and to me, it’s an assertion of the sacredness of life and creativity, and the dignity of womankind. Perhaps this woman is Devyn herself, and the garden around her is the art that she creates, those dwelling spaces decorated with the patterns and colors she loves.
Her artist statement says it perfectly:
For me, my art is who I am. It's a natural extension of my personality. And it tells my story. It's the conglomeration of everything that resonates in my spirit: the colors, flavors, rhythms, textures, and stories that make my heart swell, that allow me sit back with my eyes closed and thank God for the ability to sense beauty in the world around me. I hope that the joy I get from making is contagious enough that it touches you; that the hours I spend in the studio don't just feed my soul, but yours too. There's still a place for beauty in art. There's still a place for objects that remind us of where we came from, that challenge us to understand who we are and why we are, that help us step outside the everyday and breathe deeply of the grace that is our every day.
Learn more about Devyn at devynleonorbriggs.com.