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Artist Statement

On October 19, 2021, author Thomas Friedman wrote an opinion for the New York Times wherein he remarked that China’s recent aggressive behavior toward Taiwan is in part because of Taiwan’s preeminence in advanced semiconductor production. The world needs semiconductors urgently as the supply chain issues for cars and other necessary products has proven to Americans since March 2020 when the Pandemic began. China’s manufacturers are no exception.

That is why these prints are relevant three decades after I started working on the theme of semiconductor plate images as metaphors for computation, artificial intelligence and digital storage.

My art is rare because I use original semiconductor wafer manufacturing rejects as well as copper plates acid-etched from photographs of engineering drawings of prototype chips. None of these were accessible to other artists. I acquired them from a semiconductor startup that only operated between 1992 and 1997: it went bankrupt. In its time, it was considered a start-up alternative to Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, and Texas Instruments.

Since 1991, I’ve made over 300 different prints with a finite set of plates obtained or made between 1992 and 1998. Using those printing plates in various iterations, I’ve created art that speaks to the significance of IT and the internet on society through my visual images.

How I Made My Art
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I studied fine art at several schools over the course of my career

2010 – 2012 Calif State University MA English (TESL)
1990-2 San Jose State University sculpture major
1988-90 San Francisco Art Institute painting major
1990 Ball UniversiyMarchutz School, Aix en Provence, France
1989 Cleveland Institute of Arts, Florence, Italy
1988 Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle, Washington
1987 School of Visual Arts, Urbino, Italy
1976 American Grad. School of International Management, Glendale, Arizona (MBA)
1971-5 UCLA and Lund University, Sweden (BA cum Laude)

In the ‘Antique series’, I took aim at the transition and evolution of the word ‘originals’ because it was around 1988 that the US Supreme Court first permitted electronic document submissions. I use a single plate as a metaphor for computers and their ability to create multiple ‘originals’: an oxymoron. Under a single plate image (of an actual prototype plate) are original documents and pictures that date from 1880 – 1950 to make the point that they are not digitized images. I do not use copies of any original photos or documents. Education curators have found these images to be valuable in demonstrating the concept of paper-to-digital data storage in many disciplines: biology, botany, genetics, law, etc.


In the ‘Out of Control series’ I hand colored over 60 single plate prints to convey the gist of Kevin Kelly’s book ‘Out of Control’. The books is about the apparent serendipity in nature and how humans cannot always control the physical world. Kevin Kelly is an author, formerly a journalist, who together with Stewart Brand founded The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. I attended their lectures for years but was drawn to Kelly’s books and photojournalism even earlier.

For my color prints, I’ve focused on four plate prints. Some are more transparent than others: engineers at two computer companies where they were shown tried to reverse engineer the technology by looking at my images. By 2004, I had a trove of un-numbered or Artist Proof prints, I collaged two or three together to create the MMS series. MMS stands for MicroModule Systems, the name of the manufacturing plant in Santa Clara where these semiconductors were made. They were never offshored. One of my triptychs is titled ‘Stop! Wait! Go!’ and I made it when traffic signals, originally introduced I 1914, became ‘smart’ in the 1990s.

I completed an MBA, an MA in TESOL, and hundreds of hours in post graduate art history. I’ve been to 42 countries and speak four languages. I have had my pulse on IT since 1977 when I worked for TRW. As an IT industry analyst for more than a decade in Hong Kong and Redwood City, CA, I was often reporting on new technology and its potential impact. I was granted a patent in social media along with four other inventors. My Silicon Valley startup between 2000 and 2005 was years ahead of its time and was never fully funded.

I’ve been thinking back to how I became the visual artist I am today and it is through rereading  Rebecca Solnit’s essays that insights appeared. I was always appreciative of art, knowledgeable about art history, decorative arts, and crafts including porcelain and pottery, as well as The Womanly Arts: embroidery, sewing, weaving and bobbin lace. Back in 1973 I took classes in all of these, while on my junior year abroad in Sweden.  


A significant event occurred when I toured the Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco in 1989. Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior, a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist. Salgado, an economist with the World Bank,  became a photojournalist, as I recall he said somewhere, when he realized his photos could influence viewers more than his written reports chronicling poverty.


The first time I saw the exhibit, I was moved. The second time I was galvanized.  I imagined, if every visitor had checked their gold (watches, necklaces, earrings) in a locker before entering the exhibit, they would, like me experience his work fully: the scenes of sweaty, mud-covered gold diggers around the world exploited in huge mines in under regulated economies, would give us additional empathy for those who ‘work’ for the trinkets we love with little concern for how they got to us.  This was before the ‘blood diamonds’ phrase was known or used.  


When, years later, I began working with rejected semiconductor plates, I used them as metaphors for how computing was changing our culture, economy, medical practice, and languages. I realized the potential for conceptual art and how it could deepen the experience of my own work.  


Am I a printmaker? I’m not specifically interested in traditional mediums (linoleum, wood, silk,) or tools (paintbrushes, mesh, burrs, etc. because I’ve developed a language over the last three decades using intaglio. I considered and abandoned the possibility of lithography: it doesn’t allow me to use the variety of original documents that I prefer. 


Finally, exciting new plates coming in my next 2024 works. 

Deborah Puretz


Solo Exhibitions 
2000 San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA 
1997 Micromodule Systems, Cupertino, CA
1995 Bank of America World Trade Headquarters, San Francisco, CA
1992 Borrones Cafe, Menlo Park, CA; Gordon Biersch Brewery
& Restaurant, San Jose, CA; and Tandem Computers, Cupertino, CA
1991 Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Group Exhibitions
2023 Pattern and Process, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Commmunity Gallery, Greenville Creative Center for the Arts, Greenville, SC
2022 Greenville Creative Center for the Arts, Oak Hill Restaurant, Greenville Artist Guild, Greenville, SC
2010 Napa Valley Museum, CA 
2010 Berkeley Art Museum 200 Year retrospective 
2003 Visible Rhythm: San Jose Museum of Art, CA
2002 New Acquisitions: Berkeley Arts Museum, CA
2001 New Acquisitions: California Artists, Achenbach Foundation, SF Fine Arts Museums
2000 Pro Arts Juried Annual, Oakland, California
1997 Hearst Gallery, St. Mary’s College, Moraga CA, “Mary”
1994 Personal Transformations, Berkeley, California
1993 Religious Art Festival, Santa Monica, California
1993 14th Annual Bay Arts, San Mateo, California AWARD WINNER
1993 Womens Caucus for Art - Syntex Show, Palo Alto, California
1992 Womens Caucus for Art - Images, Visions and Voices, Palo Alto, California
1991 Of Times and Places, Dillon, Montana & Confluence ‘91, Irving, Texas
1990 Coastal Art League 6th Juried Exhibit, Half Moon Bay, CA,
& Intimate Matters: Santa Cruz Art League, Santa Cruz, CA,
& Women Artists ‘90: Matrix, Sacramento, CA 


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