Growing up in Key West gave Debra Yates a quintessential perspective on art.
The island, known for its artistic freedom has long been a haven for emerging and established artists.
Yates may have island roots, but she is also well traveled. After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in advertising design, she studied art history in Florence, Italy.
She began her career in New York as an ad agency art director, moved into magazines—first working in design development for Hearst Publications—and then as art director for Miami Magazine and the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine.
Yates served as art director for Florida Home Garden for 10 years before it ceased publication. She won the 2000 South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship.
Renowned Brazilian artist and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, frequently called the father of modern landscape architecture, was her friend and mentor. For 15 years, Yates’ annual treks to Brazil for Marx’s birthday parties are reflected in the third-world influences in her work.
As an artist, Yates is known for the abstract nature of her bold mixed media paintings and mosaics. Large-scale commissions include two paintings she created for the Neiman Marcus Collection, the 135′ by eight’ mosaic-tile semicircular wall at Collins Avenue and 73rd Street on Miami Beach, the 100′ by 10′ multimedia barricade wall she composed for the Miami International Airport, and the 16′ x 5′ painting which graces the Key West International Airport.
Her mosaics, paintings and design work have been published in numerous design books and magazines. Her work was recently featured in the New York Times. Yates brings to each project an artist’s sense of color, a graphic designer’s love of white space, a sculptor’s feel for texture, an architect’s eye for detail, and an inherent understanding of the importance of light.
Since the 1980s, when the Barbara Gillman Gallery in Miami exhibited Yates’ large-scale abstracts, the artist’s vision has expanded. With more than 18 one-person shows to her credit, she has broadened her scope of work to include sculpture, garden and spatial design.
Yates uses diverse materials to construct assemblages of both primitive and modern elements.
Yates draws inspiration from the merging of her different cultural backgrounds. Compositional balance is achieved through a strong sense of line, color and shape. There are no preliminary sketches or preconcieved ideas as each painting is an evolution.