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Deborah Conn Explores the Female Gaze

Deborah Conn isn’t just an Art League Gallery exhibitor – she’s a product of The Art League school itself. Conn began her journey as a student artist right here in Old Town. Now, 20 years later, is displaying her recent work “A Sense of Herself” in The Art League gallery, May 9–June 3, 2018.

The student-turned-teacher presents paintings that take a on a life of their own, even from the very beginning. Part sculpture and part painting, almost 3D in nature, and employing textured paper and specialized glazes, Conn’s work incorporates not just “natural” portraiture pigments but also deep greens and blues that course over the canvas like veins.


There is a certain element of unpredictability to Conn’s work, which visibly shows what most watercolorists would perceive to be “mistakes” – things like drips, or paint meeting and pooling across the paper. This is a product of the textured paper that Conn has employed specifically for its unique effect on the final product. “The paint gathers in the nooks and crannies. There’s an interplay between what the paint wants and what the painter wants,” says Conn.

Conn’s watercolor paintings of women, when hung, seem to be inviting you into conversation, create instant emotion. Some elicit a sense of sadness, others a sense of great passion, others of lingering pain, but all evoke a feeling of strength and and a story to tell. This series is particularly poignant in 2018, when women’s stories and bravery are taking the spotlight like never before.

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“Art creates an emotional connection with the viewer. It can give us the strength to say things like ‘me too’ or ‘time’s up,’” Conn remarks. As for what she wants viewers to take away from her exhibit – “
[a] Celebrat[ion] of ‘the sense of self’ of strong women persisting and battling odds. I want [viewers] to feel a sense of power in the room.”

Conn’s studio

About the Artist:

Deborah Conn has been painting in watercolor for 20 years, and she first began by taking classes at The Art League School. Her work appears in national and regional shows, and recent awards include a first place in Potomac Valley Watercolorists’ exhibition at NOVA’s Ernst Community Cultural Center, an Award of Excellence at the Virginia Watercolor Society 2016 exhibit, and an honorable mention in The Art League’s April 2018 Open Exhibit. Conn teaches beginning and intermediate watercolor in her Falls Church home studio as well as on Cunard, Celebrity, and Azamara cruise lines.

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