Out in her garden, artist Debo Groover looks up to the trees. She envisions the throngs of birds that congregate overhead leading parallel lives to her own human one. The birds are equal in this imagined universe, with their own tittering tribulations and celebrations. Florida’s green herons, great blue egrets, bluebirds, and painted buntings fascinate Groover.
She will never forget the clever, Texan grackle that pilfered dog food from her neighbor’s yard, softened it in her garden’s water fountain, and flew it back to his family’s nest.
While she tended to her flowers, narratives blossomed and took root Groover’s mind. Eventually, they became ready subject matter for her polymer clay work, which can be seen now at the Artport Gallery’s “Put a Bird on It,” exhibition, curated by the Council on Culture & Arts as part of the Art in Public Places program.
“I was thinking about how these birds in the trees were having little parties that we weren’t invited to or when they’re at the bird bath it’s like a day at the beach,” says Groover. “The birds narrate the story in the piece and sometimes the stories they tell are private, others might be silly, or even more profound politically.”
Groover, who founded Debortina Studio with her wife Tina Torrance, enjoys the accessibility of this backyard inspiration.
Her creative process usually begins with plays on words or how to anthropomorphize the human activities that make up her daily life. She thinks of the work as sophisticated naiveté, much like her favorite artist Pablo Picasso’s philosophy of making work with childlike freedom.
Flexing these creative muscles began for Groover as young as age 7, and while she studied and earned her MFA in ceramics from the University of Georgia early on, she didn’t begin working as a professional artist until much later in life. She laughs as she recalls the first pot she ever threw on the wheel that weighed in at five pounds despite being only four inches tall.
Groover has taught in universities and community workshops nationally and internationally, sharing her unusual glazing technique she coined as “tortured majolica.” However, a house fire in 2000 brought her art making to a halt for many years before she discovered polymer clay.
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