Award: Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Visual Arts

Project Collaborator(s):  

City/Town: Flagstaff

Year: 2019

Artist Website:

Everything comes back to how well I tell a story so that I open the door for viewers to understand and bring their own stories to connect to mine. Empathy is that bridge that humanizes someone or something that is not known. So I create images and tie a narrative to the work.

Excerpt from Debra Edgerton’s R&D Grant application

Painter Debra Edgerton describes her project, By the Grace of God, as “a reimaging of the notion of grief and loss for women of color,” a response to “the spectacle of grief” recently defined by all too frequent images of women standing in front of microphones at news conferences, speaking about the loss of a child, husband, brother, or family member. “Whether intentional or not,” Edgerton explains “these images define grief for our community to those outside of it. Humanity and individuality is stripped away from the grieving process and we are left with the politicization of death and loss.”

The paintings Edgerton will create for By the Grace of God are a continuation of a concept that started after a research trip to Venice, Italy in 2014. Visiting a local cemetery, Edgerton was struck by a recurring motif: the depiction of grieving women in sculptural monuments dedicated exclusively to the loss of men. By re-contextualizing documentation of Western European representations of women in mourning, creating a series depicting grieving women of color and inspired by their stories, Edgerton hopes to transform the original pieces of art into multi-cultural interpretations of loss, to redefine past signifiers to open up discussion on how women of color can be identified.

Work Samples

“#say her name”, 2017

20.5″ x 13.5″, watercolor

Sample painting and reference material for the series By the Grace of God

“Grace of God”, 2018

28″ x 20″, watercolor

Sample painting and reference material for the series By the Grace of God

Debra Edgerton is a Senior Lecturer for the School of Art at Northern Arizona University. She is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society (AWS), National Watercolor Society (NWS), and lifetime member of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America (TWSA). Her recent watercolor paintings have been awarded the High Winds Award through AWS, Henry and Fujiko Fukuhara Memorial Award, Jeanne Heartsill Memorial Award, and the Nora Stephens Founder’s Award through NWS and the Edgar A Whitney Memorial Award through TWSA. Two of Edgerton’s paintings were exhibited in China at the Shenzhen International Watercolor Biennial in the Shenzhen Art Museum and the Small Images Exhibition at the Louhu Art Museum, respectively.  In 2018, Edgerton was awarded Master Status through TWSA.

Edgerton has received numerous grants that include a past Arizona Commission on the Artist Project Grant, the Contemporary Forum Artist Grant, Elizabeth Graham Foundation Grant, and a Kansai Research Grant where she was a visiting scholar working on visual storytelling in Osaka, Japan. This research helped her complete the body of work in the collaborative exhibition entitled Echoes and Undercurrents at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

In 2017, Edgerton participated in the exhibition Hope and Trauma in a Poisoned Land: the Impact of Uranium Mining on Navajo Lands and People.  She will also be one of the participating artists in the upcoming group exhibition Parched, the Art of Water in the Southwest.

Banner image: (left) Sample painting and reference photograph for “Grace of God” from the series By the Grace of God. (right) Photo of artist by Jacob Blickenstaff