Deborah Buck’s painting informs all of her endeavors, including forays into design and entrepreneurship with her Upper East Side gallery, Buck House. Originally from Baltimore, Buck credits her early artistic and intellectual development to her encounters with the legendary Abstract Expressionist painter Clyfford Still, a family friend, who mentored her as a teenager after reviewing her work. “He talked and I listened,” Buck recalls. “He told me, ‘Nobody can teach you to paint; you already know how to do that. But if you want to be taken seriously, you should learn everything you can about the world around you: religion, politics, design, science.’” As Still opined on the painters and critics of the day, his council made a true impact on the young artist. “Even at so young an age, I knew I was in the presence of something large,” Buck remembers. After winning the Skowkegan Medal for Painting from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine, Still recommended Deborah to attend the program on the full scholarship given in his name; she celebrated her eighteenth birthday there among a group of much-older artists.
After graduating with honors from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, Buck accepted a position with the Becker Group, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions, where she designed animated displays for installation throughout the United States, and abroad; she credits daily drawing and engineering exercises with helping her painting practice. Buck began exhibiting her work professionally during the 1980s and following her move to New York City in 1990. Buck presented her work in a solo exhibition at Garrison Art Center in Garrison, New York, in 2011. Buck began to shift her attention back to design while collaborating with architects, metal smiths, and other artisans on the renovation of a rambling, pre-war apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that she and her husband purchased in 1999. “I designed it and found that my home became my painting—two dimensions became three,” says Buck of the space, which hadn’t been touched in 25 years. Her efforts were ultimately documented in the November, 2005 issue of Elle Home Décor. The couple’s country home in Garrison, New York, also designed by Buck, was featured in the magazine’s December, 2008 issue. In fall 2001, Buck opened Buck House, an art and antiques gallery situated on Madison Avenue. Operating as a successful business, Buck House often hosts members of the art and design communities. “Having been inspired by turn-of-the-century Parisian intellectual salons, I sought to create a creative gathering place of my own in that fashion—as a place for artists and creatively-minded individuals to meet.”
Deborah’s most recent works on paper reveal her fluid use of pastel and acrylic paint. She continues to explore the interplay of surrealism and abstraction in her work, where her long-held interests in absurdity, romanticism, and the darker side of fairy tales lend a strong narrative sense to her practice. In 2007 Buck joined the faculty at New York's School of Visual Arts Design program, where she teaches a seminar for Master’s thesis students. “The energy students bring to the classroom feeds my head,” she says. “I tell my students: ‘only you can put you in a box.’” Buck sits on The Board of Trustees of The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.