New Mexico’s artists come from all over, and Deborah Bentley of Rio Rancho is no exception.
A native of Waupun, Wis., Bentley has lived in the City of Vision since 2014.
Art is a recent diversion for her, after previous careers in teaching secondary math for 10 years, followed by time as a computer programmer, a corporate training manager and an instructional designing consultant for many of the largest corporations in Milwaukee.
Her interest and subsequent career in art were sparked by a painting by the late RC Gorman.
She dabbled in weaving and stained glass before falling in love with watercolors as a medium in about 1989. So, she’d been an artist before moving here, which followed occasional vacations in the Land of Enchantment.
If you visit her today, you’ll probably find her working on a silk painting, although it was a watercolor painting that resulted in notoriety of sorts – her “Birds of a Feather” piece used for this year’s poster for Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
“I think what I liked best before silk painting (was watercolors),” she said. “I found myself in a vacuum, basically. Then I found some silk painters online.
“Most recently, I’ve started exploring ways to really make my paintings ‘joyous,’ which has led to my newest technique, which I call Color Pops, a unique painting approach that was born out of my love of bright colors, boredom with my tried-and-true painting style and an inventory of never-used supplies.”
Naturally, her favorite pieces are throughout her home, many with a hint at least of New Mexico itself or iconic New Mexico “things.”
“Silk is the ideal medium for me. I find the luscious movement and blending of dyes on silk exciting; the bold colors suit my personality,” she said.
After being asked by the operator of the New Mexico Cancer Center’s “Gallery with a Cause” in Albuquerque to display 20 of her artworks, Bentley said that exclusive quarterly opportunity led to the sale of nine pieces, and she feels she has finally “arrived” as an artist.
“She gave me the best spot in the whole place,” an appreciative Bentley added.
One of her most memorable commissions remains a distinctive silk altar cloth, created to become the focal point in the worship space of a large Episcopal congregation in Little Rock, Ark.
Much of her watercolor work comes from photographs, which inspired her Bosque del Apache work. She was notified in June that she’d won, although without heeding a friend’s suggestion, she wouldn’t have even entered a piece.
“I was flattered,” she said. “I don’t really label myself.”
Nonetheless, she’s curious who bought the festival posters and her other artwork, such as from the gallery showing.
“I want to know who has my art, because that makes me happy,” she said.
Now, after earlier careers, this artist says, “I would like to join a group of people who do art.”
She’s also hopeful of finding would-be silk painters: “I would like to help them get started.”
A member of the New Mexico Silk Painters Guild, she suggests others so inclined reach her via http://www.nmsilkpaintersguild.com/pages/bentley.html.