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Kirkland Artist Rebecca DeVere Paints Past Pain

Painter uses art to portray her journey and emergence though years of chronic pain after pushing the limits as a young artist in New York.

In her current exhibition at the Kirkland Library, Rebecca DeVere, 50, uses the renewing qualities of spring as a metaphor depicting her own journey.

Emerging from ten years of chronic pain and seven surgeries, DeVere feels she is coming back to life. Though the large oil paintings are predominantly flowers and nature scenes generally associated with happiness and beauty, DeVere’s uncharacteristic use of black paint in the shadows conveys the lurking darkness.

“When I was young, I took my body for granted,” say DeVere who lived an adventurous and colorful life as an artist in New York City during the 1980s. “I thought I would move to New York and become a famous artist. Only an 18-year-old is arrogant enough to believe that!”

After alternately rough and glamorous episodes throughout her early adult life in the Big Apple, DeVere spent some time in Minnesota living near her family until she completed her journey West. Living in the Seattle area, DeVere developed a very successful mosaic business with her husband, whom she refers to as “Saint” Dennis. They made garden turtles decorated with broken China, pots, benches, birdbaths and more.

“I called myself ‘The Factory’ during that time because I would produce more than fifty pieces a day all by myself,” says DeVere further alluding to the root causes of her pain.

They sold the business in 2009 when she decided it was physically too difficult to continue. DeVere had always been a plein air painter, soaking up the healing touch of the sun as she recorded the natural world on canvas.

“Being outside feels so good. It was where I could seek refuge from pain,” says DeVere.

Never one to follow the rules, DeVere doesn’t try to fit in a traditional art mold. She likes to show slices of things, pushing the edges of the canvas as in her painting “Calla Lilies,” where the vase is cut off by the bottom edge of the canvas -- a no-no according to compositional rules.

“I’m always looking for the not-so-attractive to make it attractive,” says DeVere, relating how some of the floral arrangements were dying and losing petals while she painted.

DeVere’s identity has revolved around art since her early childhood. During her school years, she carried the title of “artist” proudly, claiming that her world was art. Self-employed artists have to work very hard promoting their work to be successful. It has been a dream of hers to be invited to show rather than pushing for a show through her own efforts.

When the Kirkland Library invited DeVere to hang a solo show this month, she was ecstatic and slightly nervous. “Spring” would directly follow one of her favorite artists, Gaylen Hansen. Being compared to the last show is a difficult hangup to overcome.

However, showing in her hometown has its comforts for DeVere.

“I feel like I can be more myself here. I get to be more natural -- let it all hang out,” smiles DeVere.

She encourages all artists to work towards their creative potential whether it means working small because of pain or limiting circumstances, or branching into something new. DeVere embraced jewelry design during her own difficult episode. Her signature three-strand chokers feature large stones and Swarovski crystals.

“My jewelry is uber decadent and fabulous because I want to bring glamour to the polar fleece,” explains DeVere. “I think women should dare to be their utmost fabulous self every day. Jewelry allows us to do that.”

DeVere gives back to the community through tireless volunteer efforts, particularly those related to art. She is a member of Kirkland’s Cultural Council, helping to revive the Kirkland ArtWalk along with Kathy Feek, Cathy Hefron, Sheila McKool and Leah Kliger. Great volunteers are part of what DeVere loves about Kirkland, the type of town she never envisioned herself living in early on in her life, but is now happy to call home.

“Spring” will be on display at the Kirkland Library until June 20, 2011. To see more of her work, please visit www.rebeccadevere.com. Her jewelry is available through private appointment (206-920-2260) or via Facebook.

Jayme Yahr May 23, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Thanks for your insightful article, Julie. I just wanted to clarify that the Kirkland Arts Center manages the visual arts exhibitions at the Kirkland Library, as well as the exhibitions on display at the Kirkland Performance Center and City Hall.
Julie Arnan May 24, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Thanks for letting us know, Jayme.

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