Rebecca Dunn DeVries Memorial Exhibition
On Display, September 3 through November 12 2022
Gallery Reception: Friday September 9, 2022 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM
Salem Arts Association is both honored and privileged to host this exhibition featuring the work of the late Rebecca Dunn Devries. We thank her family and friends for assisting with the collection of works available for sale to benefit their daughter Oonah DeVries. This collection represents the remaining works by Rebecca Dunn Devries not in private collections. We hope you are moved by this impressive collection.
Rebecca DeVries was a noted Salem artist who worked exclusively in mixed media collage and assemblage. A Fine Arts graduate of Montclair State University, her career has been centered in the arts as a Creative Director and Product Developer for several corporations until 2012 when she and her husband, Joshua DeVries, opened The Scarlet Letter Press & Gallery, a local print shop in Salem. Rebecca also served as the Vice President of the Salem Arts Association for 6 years until 2017. Her work had been exhibited in several Salem galleries over the years and she has participated in the Terror Fantasies Art Show, a pop-up Halloween-themed gallery exhibit in October, for over 10 years. In 2015 Rebecca was honored to win “Best of Show” in the Mixed Media category at the Marblehead Festival of Arts. Rebecca studied, for a time, under Michael deMeng, a master of assemblage art. Rebecca’s work, often described in one word – “creepy”, is much deeper. She finds extreme comfort working with old items, including discarded photographs and hand-written letters. “I hope my artwork inspires viewers to look beyond the ordinary objects and vestiges used within my pieces to realize that even the lifeless still retains life.”
Inspired by her Nana’s home in native New Jersey which to this day remains “the most magical place in the world”, began Rebecca’s love for antique items. A ravenous collector of paper ephemera, Victorian cabinet card photos and old books, she coupled her vintage collections with her fine arts background and her art style was born. Although knowledgeable of digital platforms, Rebecca has always worked in traditional collage, preferring scissors and glue to computers. Her work rarely has a theme, as she works on inspiration of the imagery and verbiage she collects. Often after completing a piece she can see a reflection of symbols and emotion that was conveyed within the piece without any intent. “I have always considered my artwork my therapy and this in evident in many pieces, but it is always realized after the fact. After losing both of my parents within 3 years of one another I have relied on my creative process heavily to lighten the burden of tremendous grief”.
INSPIRATIONS: attics, basements, Joel Peter Witkin, the smell of a fireplace, Dead Can Dance, my daughter Oonah, the full moon, striped socks, E.A. Poe, Halloween, rummage sales, my husband Josh, the Haunted Mansion in Disney, Vincent Price, the wind, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, love letters, thunder, cello, pumpkins, rusted metal, creaky floors and the notion that beloved family is watching over me.
Artist Rebecca Dunn DeVries (In Her Own Words)
I get a lot of requests for an Artist's Statement. It's a really tough one for me. I have trouble explaining what I do and why. Probably because my reasons are much more simplistic than what people want to hear. Almost none of my work is created with a higher purpose, a message. I simply have an eye for arranging materials.
First and foremost, I am a collector. I love just about anything antiquated - photos, letters, key, rusted bits of things. I have collected these things over the years and then decided one day that they shouldn't be stored up in boxes that no one sees, it was time they were presented to the world.
And so, spread my findings out and put them together in a composition based solely on aesthetics. That's how my work comes together.
Every now and again I'll have a theme in mind, but it's not very often. I just like to seeing how things come together one by one.
So, in summary, my art is not made for a distinct purpose. It's simply my personal collection of items that work together. And then I just hope someone finds them pleasing too. And I'm really happy when they do. Enjoy!
Rebecca Dunn DeVries | Postmortem: A Collection of the Collected
On December 8, 2021, the Salem community experienced the shocking loss of artists and Scarlet Letter Press owners Rebecca Dunn DeVries and Josh DeVries. Fellow artists and friends adored them and sorely miss them. Everyone that walked into their print shop was like an old friend. Rebecca, a.k.a Becca or Becky, always nurtured and encouraged other artists and entrepreneurs. Josh would always step out to say hi and have a funny story for you.
Anyone who knew them was aware of their massive collections. From vintage Halloween decorations to original Star Wars collectibles, boxes of animal bones and shattered pottery pieces, old keys, stamps, photographs, and magazines – the recent estate sale at their home showed that these collections were impressive. Trips to estate sales and Todd Farm were a part of their collecting adventures. The DeVries' own estate sale featured these collections, allowing them to move on with a new purpose.
Rebecca started her career in the arts at Montclair State University as a photography major with a minor in jewelry making. Her early art took shape from behind the lens. Diving into black-and-white photography, she examined female mystique through self-portraits. One of her favorite photographers was Joel-Peter Witkin, whose macabre black-and-white images had the same mood as the art she created.
Her interest in Salem informed her work in a college show of 3-D art, which featured a representation of the Salem witch trials: a vintage mannequin torso with the date 1692 across it and a noose hanging above.
Her first foray into small business was a jewelry company called Hollyhock, which offered intricately beaded earrings. She and her best friend Jennifer Sellen (Chang) would sell their work in consignment shops around New England. It was an excuse for making trips from New Jersey to the appealing fall landscape of the drive up route 84. Eventually, Rebecca joined forces with Josh DeVries and made the permanent move to Salem.
Upon arriving in Salem, Rebecca started crafting jewelry with Josh as Arcane Nonesuch. In 2005, a newspaper article about them described their work:
A few of the pendants are very straightforward, like a skull from a headstone rubbing, set inside a six-pointed coffin, while others arebdelicate and intricate, despite their message of death and mortality, like one called "Evil Child" that uses a collage technique with an old tin type.
Events like Salem’s annual Bizarre Bazar would help them share their work with the Salem community, but they had a web presence that brought them most of their business. In their condo on Andrew St., she and Josh soldered glass with found images. Vintage Halloween photos and art displayed behind glass on pendants was the most popular item, but they loved to create all kinds of wearable gothic art.
Rebecca had her secret Salem spots where she found antique plates and china discarded long ago. She soldered these pieces and embellished them with beads, transforming them into pieces of Salem history that one could wear. Soon after, she moved on to mixed media work, including collages and found objects. Some of her most beautiful pieces used the encaustic technique, which requires pigments melted into a wax medium for use. Her assemblages are at the core of this art show.
Memories of her Nana often inspired Rebecca. Her bedroom was full of Christian iconography and statuettes from Nana's home, as she found them both comforting and intriguing. These symbols appear in her art for purposes more aesthetic than religious.
The DeVries team became a deep-rooted part of Salem art and business cultures, sharing their artistic spirit and generous nature with the community. They live on through their artworks and daughter, Oonah, who will soon be blazing her own trail in the art world.
By Diane Manahan and Jennifer Chang
View some of Rebecca’s mixed media work at her Facebook and Instagram pages
Quote from article by Dinah Cardin for Wicked Local, 10/14/2005 Issue
Proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to their daughter Oonah DeVries