Works
Overview

Masters began her journey in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, later moving to New Mexico and Mexico where she absorbed the unique natural environment of the native people, and the distinctive,  ritualistic art there. After moving back to Pennsylvania, her step-father, an engineer, taught her the relationship between the macro and the micro world. She learned how to care deeply and examine closely the little details that form the big picture, and she realized early on that she needed to build, to make things that were not only beautiful, but also strong and lasting.

 

During her 35 years in Brooklyn, NY, Masters worked as a fine artist in the studio and on important public commissions. Notable projects include Walking New York, 350 feet of painted reliefs at John F. Kennedy Airport Terminal Four, Immigration Hall, and the 1260 square foot, Coney Island Reliefs, for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Brooklyn. Other installations include the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris, New York; Three Sisters, at CSU Chico, California; and Audubon Park, New Orleans. Masters has had solo exhibitions at Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY; LedisFlam Gallery, New York; Long Island University, Brooklyn; and Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn, NY.

Biography

Deborah Masters' sculptures, drawings, and painted works reflect the people she has known and venerated in all their social, existential, and spiritual dimensions. Strong and direct, her art presents the human condition as a moving, present reality.

 

Originally from Harrisburg, PA in 1951, her Greek father died right before she was born. Until age seven she lived mostly in New Mexico and Mexico with her mother and grandfather, where she was exposed to Native American culture, Mexican art and traditional altars, and to the many artists who lived in Taos, New Mexico. After moving back to Pennsylvania, Masters became deeply involved in art making. Her mother frequently took her to the major museums in New York City, and it was not uncommon for her stepfather to leave her at the Philadelphia Museum of Art during his business hours. She attended Bryn Mawr College, where she initially focused on Medieval art history, particularly the early Italian painters and sculptors, earning a BFA in 1973. She concentrated on sculpture and bronze casting at Haverford College, and did a three year stint at The New York Studio School. Masters' two formative influences were working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and travel. She could visit the museum on Mondays when no one else was there, and recounts that "Egyptian, Chinese (the tomb figures), Greek (sculptures and vases), Etruscan, and African Art were a big part of my consumption." Masters traveled to England, France, Greece, and Italy, where she saw the frescos by Giotto at the Cappella degli Scrovegni; these informed the concept of her first large-scale sculptures. By the 1980s Masters was creating larger than life-sized sculptures, both of individual figures and larger groupings. The work had a strongly mythic and archetypal quality reflecting her interest in earlier cultures.

 

Exhibitions in New York galleries garnered reviews in The New York Times, Art in America, and Sculpture Magazine. In 1997, the Biblioteca Nationale in Turin, Italy published Angels in Conflict, a book of Masters' drawings. 

 

Today, she continues to create works for her series, Spirits, sculptural heads with garments on both a monumental and intimate scale, and Crosses which combine religious, personal, and social imagery. Since the 1990s, public and private commissions brought Masters' work to a wider audience. For over 30 years, her work outside the studio has reflected her social consciousness and concerns for the environment, and she has received awards and recognition in these leadership roles in Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Upstate New York. In 2020, Sweet Soul in Exile, a documenatry about Deborah Master's activism on behalf of NYC renters' rights, won an audience award at the Berlin Short Films Festival. 

Exhibitions
Bibliography

“Nightjar”, Ashley Garrett, curator, The Bomb, 2017
Jonathon Goodman, “Deborah Masters”, catalog essay, 2017
Doug MacCash, ‘Travellers’ sculpture leaves Audubon Park for Jefferson Parish, NOLA.com, 11-12-2015
‘Travellers’ sculpture leaves Audubon Park for Jefferson Parish, NOLA.com, blog comments
Pacquerette Villeneuve, “Deborah Masters A Coney Island”, Parcours Arts
Pacquerette Villeneuve, “Deborah Masters, An American In New York”, Vie Des Arts, English Translation, 2001
Pacquerette Villeneuve, “Deborah Masters, Une Americaine A New York”, Vie Des Arts, Français, 2001
Paul Tutant, “Pacquerette Villeneuve, Les Mots, Madame, Fev-Mars, 2009
Erin Durkin, “Coney Gets Hang Of It”, Daily News, 5-17-2011
“Deborah Masters’ Coney Island Reliefs on Ocean Parkway Viaduct”, Amusing The Zillion, Blog Post, 10-2-2009
Rick Kearns, “Inspiration In Sculpture”, The Burg, 2009
Susan Rosenberg, “Deborah Masters, In The Garden: 5 Public Sculptures”, 2008
Benjamin Gennochio, “Outdoor Sculptures Kissed By Nature”, The New York Times, 06-24-2007
“475 Kent Lives”, Queens Museum of Art, postcard, 4-9-2008
Lilly Wei, “Deborah Masters at Maurice Arlos and Smack Mellon”, Art In America, Feb. 2003
Jonathan Goodman, “Reviews, Deborah Masters, Maurice Arlos Fine Art”, Sculpture Magazine, July 2003
Lisa J Curtis, “Thinking Big”, The Brooklyn Paper, 01-13-2003
“Deborah Masters, Crossing Brooklyn: Angel In Crown Heights”, The Brooklyn Museum, press release, 01-6-2003
“Deborah Masters, Activist and Artist”, Greenline, Oct. 2002
Holland Cotter, “Sacred Matter, Smack Mellon”, The New York Times, 9-27-2002
Barbara Schaeffer, “Das Leben”, Brigitte, 12-2-2002
“Artworld: Best Public Art Award”, Art In America, Apr 2002
Celestine Bohlen, “Being Met At The Airport By New Art”, The New York Times, 05-24-2002
Cathy Lebowitz, “Public Art In JFK Terminal”, Art In America, 6-02-2002
Ronald Smothers, “Making Dwell time Fly Just A Little Faster”, The New York Times, 5-21-2001
“New York’s JFK Airport Opens A New Terminal”, The Los Angeles Times, 5-30-2001
Pete Bowles, “Missing Cloth’s No Cover-Up”, Daily News, 4-26-2001
Susan Saulny, “Blushing Then Brushing Artist Covers Nude”, The New York Times, 4-25-2001
“The Fine Art of Traveling”, Craines, 01-29-01
“Above The Immigration Wall, Walking New York, Catalog, 2001”
Warren Woodberry Jr, “Artist Adds Loincloth to Jesus in JFK Mural”, The Daily News, 04-25-2001
Bonnie Schwartz, “Cast of Thousands”, Brooklyn Bridge, Sept 1996
“Three Moons: A Fountain By Deborah Masters At LedisFlam”, Independent Eagle, Jan 1994
Raanan Geberer, “This Deborah Masters Both Sculpture and Politics”, Brooklyn Journal of Arts and Urban Affairs, 1994
“In Sculptor’s Figures, A Mysterious Gravity”, Philadelphia Inquirer, 06-11-1994
Ruth Bass, “Women At War, LedisFlam”, Art News, Nov 1993
“The 2nd Dimension, 20th Century Sculptors Drawings”, Catalog Cover, The Brooklyn Museum, 1993
Linda Kenheim Kramer, “The 2nd Dimension, 20th Century Sculptors Drawings”, Catalog, The Brooklyn Museum, 1993
Judith Page, “Exposed” Catalog, 1993
Elizabeth Hess, “Covert Action, LedisFlam”, The Village Voice, 3-9-1993
Chuck Twardy, “Exposed Isn’t X-Rated” Ledis Flam, 1993
Nancy Princenthal, “Deborah Masters At LedisFlam” (TEXT), Art In America, Mar 1992
Sheila McKenna, “Brooklyn Profile: Deborah Masters”, Newsday, 1992
“Garden of Statues Grows At Chico State”, Chico Enterprise Record, 8-17-1991
Courtney Rastatter, “Sister, Sister, Master’s Final Sculpture Project Looks Inward”, Chico Record, 1991
“The Monoliths Have Landed, Three Sisters and A Rose Garden” Art Letter, Chico, 1991
“Monolithic Sculpture”, Photo and caption, CN&R Newslines, 1-22-1991
“Monoliths”, Photo and caption, Visiting Artists and Scholars, Art Letter, Chico, 1990
Lauren Dodge, “Sculpture’s New Location Solves Controversy”, The Orion, 11-7-1991
“In Honor Of Mary, Images of Devotion”, catalog, Bill Base Gallery, 1990
“Deborah Masters Sculpture”, Press Release, Gracie Mansion Gallery, 1-4-1990
“Deborah Master’s Circle”, catalog, Gateway Center, 1990
“Sculptor’s Primitive Expression”, Photo: Jesse, Eureka Standard, 1990
Robert Mahoney, “Deborah Masters, Gracie Mansion, Ledis Flam, January 4-27”, Arts Magazine, 1990
Genia Gould, “Artist Profile, Deborah Masters”, archived by Gracie Mansion Gallery and LedisFlam, 1990
Arlene Raven, “Women in Command”, (TEXT) The Village Voice, 1-23-1990
Nancy Ramsey, “Loft Tenants”, The New Yorker, 1-19-1989
“Deborah Masters”, Visiting Artists & Scholars Art Letter, 1989
Robert Mahoney, “New York In Review”(TEXT), Arts Magiazine, 1989
“In A Dark Vein”, catalog, The Sculpture Center, Feb 1989
Mariella Bisson, “Deborah Masters, Pond Virgins” catalog, Prospect Park, 1989
Michael Brenson, “Beyond Slickness: Sculptors Get Back to Basics”, (TEXT) The New York Times, 3-3-1989
“The Trials of Showing Sculpture In The Park”, The Phoenix, 10-13-1988
Michael Brenson, “Blue Angel: The Decline of Sexual Stereotypes in Post-Feminist Sculpture”, NYTimes, 4-1-1988
“City Boots Loft Tenants”, The Brooklyn Paper, 1988
Hilary Dunst, “Waterfront Artists Emerge Down Under”, The Phoenix, 5-14-1987
“Sign Of The Times”, The Phoenix, 11-5-1987
“Part 2”, Headline Photo, New York Newsday, 5-15-1987
Susan Brenna, “Embattled Artists of Brooklyn”, New York Newsday, 5-15-1987
“Blue Angel: The Decline of Sexual Stereotypes in Post-Feminist Sculpture”, catalog, Bronx Council On The Arts, 1986
“Provacative Art In Waterfront Show’s Windows”, The Phoenix, 1986
“Deborah Masters, Massacre of the Innocent”, catalog, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, 1986
Amy Vershup, “A New Day Dawns In Brooklyn”, New York Magazine, 4-21-1986
“Waterfront Art”, Review, The New York Times, 8-10-1984
“Sculpture Show In Brooklyn”, photo and caption, Front Page, The New York Times, 4-29-1984
“Fulton Ferry State Park”, The Phoenix, 4-28-1983
“Dumbo Artists Gear Up For Battle”, Photo, The Phoenix, 2-19-1981