Debra Disman is a Los Angeles-based artist known for her work inspired by the book, both as a solo practitioner and in the public sphere of community engagement. As a maker and teaching artist she creates work and projects which push the body and boundaries of the book into new media and materials, inviting altered ways of viewing the world and how we inhabit it.
Her work is shown in museums, galleries, universities and libraries including Launch LA; The Mike Kelly Gallery at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA; The Brand Library and Art Center in Glendale, CA; LA's Craft Contemporary; The Long Beach Museum of Art; The University of the Arts in Philadelphia; The Cape Cod Museum of Art; The Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA; The University of Puget Sound; and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
Disman was the featured artist for the Big Read in LA in 2016; is the recipient of a 2016-17 WORD: Artist Grant / Bruce Geller Memorial Prize to create “The Sheltering Book”, a life-sized book structure designed as a catalyst for community creativity; and was commissioned by LA’s Craft Contemporary Museum to create an interactive book for the 2017 exhibition, “Chapters: Book Arts in Southern California".
She was a Studio Resident at the Camera Obscura Art Lab at 1450 Ocean in Santa Monica in 2018, and has served as an Artist-in-Residence with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs since 2017, working with the city’s diverse communities. A local Artist In Residence at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA, she is a 2021-22 Santa Monica Artist Fellow.
I currently work in the form of the book, in forms evoked by the book, and in multidimensional media of my own devising. Although the work remains tethered to loose definitions of the book as structure, it is moving progressively into other sculptural and conceptual realms where devotion to material labor and a passion for the haptic become powerful motivators and themes.
"We approach the work not as a book, which has always been an integral part of Disman’s work, but as a sculpture. One takes note of the focus and care these works require, and subsequently the labor appears as a part of the story." -- Juri Koll
When working, I try to sidestep my conscious, critical mind and allow flow state to take over, remaining aware and receptive to the visceral, conceptual and concrete directions the work is taking. Achieving and remaining in this sense of flow where potential is infinite is mission critical to my working process. It is this state of openness and unlimited possibility that allows new levels of connection and meaning to emerge, and purpose, knowledge and direction to be clarified.
Having worked in the realm of the built environment for many years, I am fascinated by the parallels between books and buildings in terms of architecture, meaning and utility. Each constructs public and private spaces where stories are "read" on many levels, often revealing more than their authors and makers ever intended. Related to the body and the corporeal space it creates and inhabits, my work seeks to offer places of contemplation, solace and bafflement, while instigating exploration, investigation and examination of what we think we know, and are.