Rising to the Surface: Paintings by Debbie Ma
An open, clean and white-walled room with a singular bench. It is quiet. The room is filled with large, heavy and enveloping abstract paintings full of intricate shapes and textures. All are black, white and gray.
The room is quiet, not in an eerie way, but in a meditative way; the paintings are the only areas of interest.
Debbie Ma’s marble dust paintings are what fill the walls in their first solo exhibition as the New York artist comes to the Midwest.
“These paintings, they contact your eye, and they contact your brain, and they calm you down,” Robert LaFrance, David Owsley Museum of Art Director, said. “People tend to have an immediate liking or reaction to them.”
While this is a unique exhibition, the museum has displayed one of Debbie Ma’s paintings, “Ouarzazate,” since it was purchased by David Owsley in 2016 at an art show in Long Island, New York, before being loaned to the museum. It has been hanging in the gallery since 2017.
“David [Owsley] fell in love with Debbie Ma’s work immediately, as soon as he saw it, and it happened to be her first big show,” LaFrance said. “We’re sponsoring her first one-person-show in the world that she’s had in a public museum.”
While her paintings and other artwork are now her focus, art was not Ma’s first career. She worked in product design for cosmetics companies for 25 years after graduating from Parsons School of Design, a private art and design college in New York in 1983.
Ma shifted to fine art after visiting a gallery featuring the artist Antoni Tàpies. Ma’s unconventional path has drawn a sense of relatability out of some students who have worked with her during her time spent at Ball State University.
“Especially right after graduating, it's just incredible to work with someone who’s already made their mark and getting to pick her brain about a few things,” Class of 2023 graduate Kate Kimmel said. “To see how she got to her path of success was really interesting, especially coming from someone who was a studio art major also.”
Much like Kimmel, students of the university will be able to hear Ma’s story when she returns Oct. 12 to speak in the recital hall at DOMA at 6 p.m.
“I think students can learn a lot from her in terms of how to be a professional and to be a professional artist, but also how to be an artist who is a professional graphic designer and a professional artist,” LaFrance said.
Her path is not only instructive but both her path and artwork can serve as an inspiration to students.
“I feel like her story illustrates that you can be your own artist,” Associate Director of DOMA Rachel Buckmaster said.
Fibers of Being: Textiles from Asia in the DOMA’s Collection
A room filled with color. Bright reds and blues embroidered with striking gold. Textiles filled with stories and hard work.
The room displays Asian textiles directly from the DOMA collection, brought out of storage, researched and displayed in a project lasting 18 months, most on display for the first time.
“There really hasn’t been a show before in the history of the museum since the 1930s,” Associate Curator of Asian Art Noelle Giuffrida said.
Something that makes this show so special is the student involvement required. While Giuffrida worked hard on this project, it would not have been possible without the amount of student participation in the form of curatorial interns at the museum.
These students include Cydney Davidson, Gabriela Henderson, Natalia Latham, Kennedy Moore and Lea Stouder.
Their work, as well as the partnership with Ball State University's Digital Corps, which helped to create QR codes and audio-video elements to increase interaction with the display, have made the short-term exhibit a lasting one.
The exhibit features textiles, both clothing and others, from all over Asia. The vibrant colors and storytelling etched into the pieces themselves provide a different perspective as they encourage the viewer to dive into Asian culture.
“It’s a way to engage with the material and visual culture of Asia and people of Asian descent in a way that feels really hopeful and inspiring. And [it’s] a way to look at history and things today through material objects and to have a greater understanding of what’s happening in the world,” Giuffrida said.
The exhibition is only on display for a short period of time due to the nature of textiles and how they must be protected.
“Textiles are a material that can’t be out in these galleries all the time because they are light sensitive,” Giuffrida said. “They need a temperature that is not too warm. They need not a lot of humidity ... So they, like works on paper, can only be shown for short periods of time, so this was a chance to show a bunch of them all at once.”
This exhibition, along with Rising to the Surface, will be on display at DOMA until Dec. 21.
Contact Madelyn Bracken with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.