Center for Spiritual Care

Integrating Body, Mind, Spirit & Creativity

Center for Spiritual Care 20th Anniversary

Past Exhibits

April 2019

Deb Gooch Takes a Long Look at Life

         When Deb Gooch riffles through the Kodak black-and-whites she inherited from her parents, a past reappears that seems a little like a dream.  There they are: her father and mother looking for all the world like William Powell and Myrna Loy in a Thin Man movie…her little brother, always underfoot…dogs she played with as a child…her favorite horse growing up.

         In Gooch’s hands, these memories become a rich source for paintings that in a personal sense may be cathartic but to the rest of us are transcendently joyful.   For, make no mistake, these paintings are not attempts to recreate the photograph.  They are meant to represent the emotions the photo evokes. 

         Gooch was deeply influenced as a student by Raoul Middleman, who has taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art (one of the oldest in the United States) since 1961.  Middleman has been described as a “Baltimore maestro [whose] narrative paintings give contemporary life to his personal obsessions. They are intelligent, messy, and utterly masterful.”  Although their styles diverge significantly, that would not be a bad way to describe Gooch’s narratives.

         The real difference surfaces in her sense of humor.  She lends a cartoonish lilt to many of her figures, encouraging us to smile at their antics.  Or the figures themselves radiate exuberant delight that evokes the same reaction in us, as in The Three Graces, an award-winning triple portrait of women having the time of their lives.

         Another name resonates when considering Gooch’s work, and it is one that brightens her face when mentioned.  It is Larry Rivers, the outlaw tenor saxophonist and breaker of rules whose paintings helped light up New York City in the ‘60s.  Gooch certainly does not paint like Rivers, but his influence might be deduced in her compositions, the lanky, nonchalantly intertwined bodies on her canvases, her insouciant placement of figures on a ground.

         Consider No More Dancin’, with its figure of a small boy in a bunny costume, a recurring trope, who shares the surface with the images of three “real” rabbits, one doing a hoedown.  It’s a painting Rivers would be entirely comfortable with.  Figures do recur in Gooch’s work regularly.  Whippets, purple hippos, crows, and fruits of many kinds pop up in the oddest places and at the strangest times.  They reappear mysteriously and often unintentionally, swirling up from her memory pool. 

         In the case of No More Dancin’, the recollection comes from a ballet class she attended as a child for a few weeks before a scheduled spring recital.  As she caromed about with an Easter bunny chorus line, her father turned to her mother and said, “Well, Janet, there goes your fifty bucks, hopping across the stage.” Repeated endlessly over family dinners, the anecdote became part of Gooch’s subconscious.

         Deb Gooch is a very special person in the Vero Beach art community.  Both as a teacher and as an example of a life devoted to art, she is a model for younger painters and a dedicated and supportive colleague to more experienced ones.  For her, the operative word is seldom “I” but most often “we.” Her paintings express her affection for family, friends, and all the creatures of this garden of earthly delights.  We are delighted to show her works at the Center for Spiritual Care.


Warren Obluck



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