‘Illuminating the good around us’
By ADAM TANOUS
Express Arts Editor
Advocacy can take many forms. Advocates for animals tend
to be very vocal, perhaps because their charges are not. Debbie Edgers
Sturges has a different approach. She prefers to paint animals, to share
her perception of their beauty with the world and in so doing tell their
Starry Summit by Debbie Edgers
Her work is currently exhibited at Sagebrush Gallery in
Sturges paints colorful and sometimes fantastical images—indeed
some of her ideas for paintings come from dreams—of animals in nature.
Her subjects are often mountain lions, bears and salmon.
She prefers acrylic paints largely because in drying fast
they "allow her to do hard edge work," she said in a recent
interview. Her style now is contrary to what her professors at Tufts
University in Boston, Mass.—where Sturges earned her master’s degree
in fine arts—urged her to work in. "They tried to get me to be
looser with the paints, more painterly. But I just prefer what I’m doing
now. I like to break up space with shapes and color, and show depths by
shadow and contrast."
One thing that is clear about Sturges is she loves to
paint. Her work has an optimistic flair to it—this is not a tortured
artist at work. "Though working in the studio can be hard, it gives
me a lot of peace. I especially enjoy the beginning of a painting when all
things seem possible."
Home by Debbie Edgers Sturges
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of painting for Sturges,
however, is when she runs into problems. "Solving the mechanics of
painting, pushing through a boundary always leads me on another path…I
can then delve into the spiritual level of the painting," she said.
Sturges began her pursuit of art almost 30 years ago when
she enrolled in the University of Washington at Seattle. She studied
painting there and graduated in 1974.
Having spent a previous winter in Ketchum inspired Sturges
to move here after graduation. One of her first jobs here was teaching art
to children at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. In 1975 she opened the
Ketchum Coffee Grinder and Gallery. It became an art gallery of sorts.
Sturges routinely showed the work of Sun Valley Center students and local
artists. Four years later she sold the Grinder to go back to Tufts, where
she completed a master’s degree in fine arts.
Sturges returned to Ketchum and teaching art at the Center
and through the College of Southern Idaho. In 1989 she married Brian
Sturges, a teacher at Wood River Middle School, and together they opened
The Red Dog Gallery and Blue Bird Supply. Five years later Sturges closed
the shop to concentrate on writing and painting.
Now Sturges finds herself enamored of creating children’s
books. It allows her the opportunity to pursue both her writing and her
art. Though she hasn’t sold a book project yet, she has come very close
with a few publishers. In 1997 and 1999 she won Quick Arts Professional
Grants from he Idaho Commission on the Arts to develop children’s
Between working on ideas for books and climbing Mt. Ranier
in June, Sturges will be back in her studio.
Talking to her, it is hard to tell which she is most
excited about. Her enthusiasm spills out into all she does. Her artist
statement perhaps conveys it best: "In a world of disturbing imagery,
my paintings tell an optimistic story. I strive to create visually and
emotionally the feelings that I have about the landscape, changing seasons
and the wildlife that live in the mountains and valleys that I call home.
My love may be transparent, but sincere. I attempt to illuminate the good
around us. The paintings are narrative and the stories are real in my mind
and on my canvas."