Debbie Hesse is an installation artist, curator and educator who brings communities together around social, cultural, political and environmental ideas and issues thru her unique mixed media installation art and innovative programmatic initiatives.

Hesse combines organic and artificial materials and forms with cast/painted shadows to create parallel, hybrid, changing environments that explore ideas about growth, materiality and the ethereal. Recent work has examined seaweed farming and local initiatives that address issues of food security and the environment.

Her interest in growth and change in the natural world informs her creative practice.  Nature-inspired synthetic wall constructions fold and play with light and color to comment on what is real or invented reality, finding novel spaces that become their own universe.  Color Plexiglas structures, cast shadow, color and light converge to produce infinite configurations. Resulting work is both material and immaterial, physical and virtual, static and in flux.  Forms are reconfigured into map-like constructions that evoke meditative spaces--intimate and infinite.

...Hesse cuts elaborate shapes out of the acrylic sheet, layers them, separated by space to permit a number of different interactions, and mounts them on the wall. The shapes she uses derive from as many sources as one can imagine, geometry, geology, botany, cartography and so on. But the physicality of the pieces is only just the beginning. Light penetrates the colored Plexiglas casting colored shadows on the wall. Shadows from the various planar elements overlap to produce still more chromatic effects. Hesse belongs to a loose network of artists who curate and otherwise organize shows focusing on color. This association seems natural, organic and obvious.

But to see Hesse’s work only through the lens of color is to miss its most significant qualities. The abstract shapes and their consequences in real space depend on projections, reflections, demarcations, combinations, and shadow. These are all states of being, more or less physical, more or less perceptible, and more or less tangible. While immersed in the sensuousness of its decorative qualities it is likely that phenomenological reflection may turn to philosophical insight.

Gil Scullion

November 22, 2018

Hesse was awarded a 2019 Connecticut Office of the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, 2016 Regional Project Initiative Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Office of Economic and Community Development, National Endowment of the Arts, in partnership with Shoreline Arts Alliance. She is a recipient of an International Artist-in-Residence at Hongti Art Center in Busan, South Korea where she researched seaweed cultivation traditions and had a solo exhibition. She has received a Rhode Island Visual Artists Sea Grant Award (2013), Connecticut Visual Artist Sea Grant Award (2010), and a Vermont Studio Residency artist grant (2011). She was Artist-in-Residence at GreenWave (2016), a non-profit ocean climate sustainability group and artist-in-residence at Weir Farm Art Center and Historic Site in July 2017. Her work has been exhibited in South Korea, New York, New Mexico and Connecticut.

Hesse holds a B.A. from Smith College, a Masters in Painting and Printmaking from University of New Mexico where she was a fellow at Tamarind Institute of Lithography. She has been a panelist and juror for many arts organizations including the Cultural Affairs Office for the City of New Haven, the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Sea Grant Program at University of Connecticut. She has served on boards for the Ball and Socket Factory Arts in Cheshire, CT,  Ely Center of Contemporary Art, Site Projects, and Artspace Visual Arts Committee in New Haven, Ct. She was the keynote speaker for the 2016 Connecticut Art Education Alliance fall conference-Lead With Art.