Growing up in Key West gave Debra Yates a quintessential perspective on art. 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. 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.
Debra Yates explores the act of painting as a process of restrained intent, always striving for “less is more”. The work seems spontaneous and primitive while creating a sophisticated harmony. The work is formed as it is painted. Gestures are not premeditated. Strokes of black are lauded for their intensity. There is balance even when motion is chaotic. Circles happen.