Deborah Valoma works primarily with thread—a medium that crisscrosses the globe with a potent network of political, historical, social, gendered, and metaphorical meanings. Intensely research-based, her studio practice harnesses the nuances of this humble, yet poetically charged medium. Whether using age-old hand construction techniques or cutting-edge digital weaving technology, or her work hugs the edges of traditional practice, simultaneously upholding age-old custom and unraveling long held stereotypes of the genre.
Formally, Deborah's work is sculptural, exploiting the malleability and memory of cloth to shape static form in space. She conceptualizes weaving as a sculptural medium—a three-dimensional interplay of threads choreographed through the repetitive movements of her hands. Though seemingly abstract, her work is densely narrative, using the subtleties of materiality and process to signify meaning. Often she uses the rapport between text and textile, citing religious, theoretical, and historical sources both implicitly and explicitly.
As a child, Deborah traveled from archeological site to archeological site in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Her family crossed the desert to Thebes, Masada, and Petra; walked the narrow markets streets of Damascus, Cairo, and Jerusalem; were hosted in Bedouin encampments; and traveled the Holy Land, mapping the landscape with the Old and New Testaments. These formative experiences sensitized her to the historical forces of place and object, and grounded her with an awareness of a cultural continuity—a frayed, yet resilient thread—stretching tenaciously backwards and forwards in time.
In the early 1960s Deborah Valoma played in the dusty footprints of ancient homes on Tell Nagila, in the Negev Desert in Israel. Archeologists unearthed stone scarabs, metal implements, glass vases, and ceramic vessels, but the remains of the coiled baskets, plaited mats, and woven fabric that dominated the cultural landscape during the Bronze Age had long ago disintegrated into fine particles. What had once been a pervasive technology was hardly a footnote in the archeological record.
Textiles are, by their very nature, transient; they stain, decompose, and disappear. The indigenous language of textiles is a vernacular of loss—a poetics of emphemerality. Textiles are the visual equivalent of the pause in music—the lyrical void between counts, cords, and melodic phases. Working with thread and cloth orients Deborah Valoma's attention to the dusty particles of forgotten history, bringing presence to absence and voice to silence.
Influential teachers and mentors have shaped Deborah's professional path. From Israeli artist and designer Jenifer Bar-Lev she discovered that needle and thread were indeed artist tools; from internationally acclaimed artist and weaver Lia Cook she learned the complexities of space and thread; and from renown Coast Miwok and Kashaya Pomo basket weaver Julia Parker she gained an understanding of rest, silence, and waiting. This constellation of influence coalesces in Deborah Valoma’s current practice as an artist.