Interview with Helen DeRamus
with Corlia Koch, web specialist, the Women’s Caucus for Art of Georgia
- Who are you, what do you do, and what is your background?
Atlanta, Georgia, is my hometown. I graduated from Emory at Oxford in the early admission extended program and then from Emory University in history and art history. My art history concentration in Asian art set the tone for my career in art. I taught high school in Savannah, Georgia after graduating, then moved to Englewood, New Jersey, where I taught high school art history and began studio courses in studio arts. Returning to Atlanta in 1979, my interest in photography (my dad’s influence) took me to the SE Center for the Photographic Arts studying with Buck Miller, Larry White and Neil Chaput de Saintonge. In 1981, I started a commercial photography business that I ran for the next ten years. When I began critique and painting sessions in 1986 with Joseph Perrin, he encouraged me to combine paint and photographs, so here I am. I continue to use photography and paint and using my photographs for inspiration.
- What’s integral to your art and or art career?
Experimentation is integral to my art and I think of my style as eclectic.
- What themes do you pursue and what medium do you use?
I am on a journey through the landscape and use the idea of “moving focus” found in Asian art to inform my work. For me to be successful I strive to combine. three important elements: hand, eye and heart. The odd shapes in nature always call to me, knowing that in nature, there is always the infinite and the infinitesimal. I use a variety of mediums including encaustic, oil and wax, lithographic crayon and India ink working on wooden panels, canvas, and paper.
- What makes you angry, what makes you happy?
Intolerance makes me angry and working in the studio makes me happy. Many things make me happy; there are too many to list.
- Who and what inspires you in your work and or in your life in general?
The natural world inspires me. I experience intense pleasure through my eyes and sense of touch. There is something new to see every day.
- What superpower would you want?
X-ray vision, no doubt.
- Who are your favorite artists and writers?
I admire and get inspiration from so many artists many of whom I know well. But I can point to career of Giacometti who inspires me to value the process above all else. The writer, Annie Dilliard, for her capacity to see the whole landscape and appreciate the tiniest creatures. Robert MacFarlane, another writer who describes the landscape in a way that helps me appreciate the history and “feel” of the landscape and Julie Mehretu whose large complex works inspire me to imagine the possibilities of a new way of seeing the landscape.
- What advice would you give to other artists?
Value your work. Make connections with artists you trust to keep you honest. Work as much as you can because your inspiration comes from working. Be open to learning from other artists you admire.