New York-born artist Deborah Semel Demirtaş’s studio work focuses largely on landscape, identity and meaning – both on an individual basis, i.e. the meaning of the relationships human beings forge with particular places and with nature on an intimate scale, and on a social level, i.e. our social understanding of place and identity, and how our relationship with where we live is mediated by art. Her investigation of these concerns takes place across a wide range of formats, from traditional drawings in oil pastels to larger installations in which the environment/place forms an essential part of the work itself. Her concern with environmental responsibility as an artist prompted her to reduce her “studio footprint” by trying to avoid hazardous chemicals and use as much “waste” material as possible, which led her to produce an ongoing body of collages that recycle not only consumer detritus, but her own artwork as well. Digital photography, video and sound recordings have also made their way into her work, which has taken to forging relationships in real time as a vaccination against the effects of a world dominated by virtual communication.
Semel Demirtaş holds a BFA degree from Washington University (1983), an MFA degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (1991) and a ‘Proficiency in Art’ degree (2006) from Hacettepe University. Between 1994-1997, she taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Design and Architecture of Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, where she had moved in 1994. Since then, she has continued to exhibit and teach at various universities, for NGOs, and independently. Semel Demirtaş currently lives in the beautiful Aegean town of Foça (Izmir, Turkey), where she continues her studio practice and also acts as director of an international cultural heritage film festival.