Deborah Unger

Deborah Unger
wood sculptor


About the ArtistUnger_ProfilePic

Deborah Unger was born and raised in Mt. Angel, Oregon. She always enjoyed making art and took some art classes while at school. After graduating high school in 1982 she attended Advertising Art School in Portland, which taught old-school graphics and design, including newspaper layout, product illustration and hand lettering. After a year there she realized graphic art wasn’t what she was interested in and left. She began working at a sign shop doing mostly silk screening and started attending Chemeketa Community College where she concentrated on art classes, especially life drawing and printmaking. In 1984 she started the BFA program at Pacific Northwest College of Art in printmaking.

After graduating in 1988 she moved to Germany and married a native. She lived there for nearly 20 years. During that time she learned German, taught English as a second language to adults and had a child. Since printmaking facilities weren’t available she began experimenting with different media. Eventually she found a piece of carving wood in an art supply store and began working in her current style. After a divorce she returned to Mt. Angel in 2007 with her son to help care for her parents. In 2010 she joined Lunaria Gallery where she has been a member since.

Artist Statement

With a BFA in printmaking, I had always considered myself a two dimensional artist. I never felt particularly drawn to classical or even modern sculpture. However, I did have a passion for medieval sculpture. I find Romanesque, Gothic and Early Renaissance art, and particularly sculpture, very compelling. I love the arcane symbolism, the hierarchy of scale and the richness of detail and color. This, I believe is what lead me to working three dimensionally.

One day I found a carving block in an art supply store and took it home. I was trying so hard to coax a figure out of it that I didn’t leave enough material for clothing. So I decided to sew my figure a dress and have been working that way ever since.

I carve my figures from basswood using both hand and power tools. They are dressed in clothing for which I make the patterns and sew. The figures are carved in components in order to accommodate the clothing. They are then dressed and arms or legs attached and the clothing sewn closed.

At first glance my figures may seem like simple dolls but each is set in a special environment or vignette meant to convey a situation or emotion. Houses and forests are reoccurring elements in which the figures are often set. I use metaphor to describe personal and relational conflicts, making them reminiscent of what one might experience in a dream. They can be interpreted as ironic, metaphoric or amusing.