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sometimes, you hav'ta make do: Debra Eubanks Riffe Exhibition Recap

Kentuck has the privilege of displaying the elegant prints of Debra Eubanks Riffe from July 7,2022 until August 1,2022 in the Museum Gallery. Her original, hand-printed relief prints of woodcuts and linoleum blocks are striking in their bold compositions, striking detail, and masterful composition.

A native of Tupelo, Mississippi, Debra's work is heavily influenced by her southern roots. However, her time living abroad in Barranquilla, Colombia, South America revealed a common set of experiences between life in Colombia and life in the American South. Viewers will notice that Debra's work speaks to global topics, such as Civil Rights activism, environmental injustice, illiteracy, as well as the customs and traditions practiced within the African American community.


"My compositions, mostly figurative, are images of African Americans performing routine tasks in timeless, solitary reflective moments; tasks that speak of social status and identity, intimacy and a sense of place. I appreciate the ordinary."

tug o war by Debra Eubanks Riffe

Her work is a quintessential example of the power of a black and white woodcut, and, while Debra reveals seemingly ordinary moments in her work, the mastery Debra has of her medium certainly can be described only as extraordinary. Her carving technique is a graceful balance of intricate details and negative space. There is an air of distinction and regality that emanates not only from Debra herself, but also from her work. Deceptively simple, her images stir a strong emotional response, with bold lines that record the emotion and energy of her subjects.


"Through simplicity of form, I use basic art principles to convey shape, gesture, attitude, movement and emotion."

Left: satch by Debra Eubanks Riffe; Middle: the day is past and gone by Debra Eubanks Riffe; Right: pumpkin harvest by Debra Eubanks Riffe

Viewers will notice that her titles are distinctivealways written in lowercase. The titles of her prints are based on rural southern dialect derived from speech patterns and unique characteristics of black vernacular, further capturing the customs and traditions in the African American community.


Her technical skills and methods have evolved through trial and error, and while she loves the rich quality of using black ink, she has begun to explore the use of color in her work. A few images found in sometimes, ya hav'ta make do reflect this exploration. She works largely from memory, sketchbook drawings, and photo references. Viewers may recognize a few familiar places or faces when viewing this exhibition.

I cain't rememba' the future of my past by Debra Eubanks Riffe

Debra Riffe resides in Birmingham, Alabama and has exhibited extensively throughout the Southeast United States. A renowned printmaker, her work can be found in the permanent collections of several institutions, including the Birmingham Museum of Art. To learn more about Debra, please click here.


sometimes, ya hav'ta make do will be on view at Kentuck's Museum Gallery until August 1, 2022. We encourage you to visit this exhibition in person! For purchasing inquiries, please call 205-758-1257 or email mbell@kentuck.org.


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