Haddonfield native Deborah Remington, 79, a Manhattan-based abstract artist whose work featuring mechanical and organic references has been exhibited all over the world, died of cancer Wednesday, April 21, at CareOne in Moorestown.
Though Miss Remington's great-uncle was Frederic Remington, the famous artist who captured the American West in his action-filled paintings, she made only side references to him when speaking of artistic talent in her genes, said those who knew her.
She wanted to make a name for herself and focus on her own abstract niche.
And she did.
From Los Angeles to Paris to New Zealand, Miss Remington's paintings, drawings, and lithographs had worldwide exposure for more than 40 years.
She exhibited her work in the Philadelphia region several times throughout the years, but her fan base was mostly in New York City and California, said Victoria L. Manning, owner of the Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, Del.
Abstract art is not a huge seller in the Philadelphia tristate region, which is more conservative than other parts of the country, Manning said.
But "it was a good forum for education," Manning said, referring to a 1980s exhibit by Miss Remington. "They appreciated it."
Born and raised in Haddonfield, Miss Remington, an only child, quickly developed a love of art. She went from dance to music lessons and by age 9 had made her career choice: She wanted to be an artist.
She enrolled at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Arts, but after her father died in 1944, Miss Remington moved with her mother to California.
After high school, Miss Remington studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she developed a taste for abstract expressionism.
After her graduation in 1955, she did not want to be the cliché emerging artist who jetted off to Europe. So she went to Japan and Southeast Asia to study culture and calligraphy.
"I thought the best way to discover who I was would be to put myself in a totally alien culture, where I not only didn't speak the language, but I didn't look like anyone else either," she told The Inquirer in 1985.
During her five years in Asia, Miss Remington took odd jobs to support herself, including a stint as an actress in B movies and TV soap operas.
Though her work does not have obvious Asian influence, she said in 1985 that learning calligraphy for two years had enhanced her "understanding of line."
In 1960, she returned to San Francisco and exhibited her work in the area for five years before moving to New York City.
Success followed her first one-woman show in 1967 at New York's Bykert Gallery. A year later, Darthae Speyer invited Miss Remington to exhibit her work in Speyer's Paris gallery. That exhibition launched worldwide success. Her work made its way to galleries and museums in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
Miss Remington consistently worked in abstract art, but her subjects and depictions changed over time.
"She went from more metallic, clean-edged images to more gestural . . . then became expressive gestural," Manning said.
In 1983, Miss Remington held her first of at least two exhibitions in Manning's gallery, then called the Gallery at Greenville. During that time, Miss Remington decided to purchase a country house and studio in Chester County, while keeping her New York City loft.
Many New York City artists had second homes in New England or Long Island, but she chose Pennsylvania.
"She liked to be contrary," Manning said, adding that was very much a part of Miss Remington's personality, which she described as forceful and bold.
"There's tremendous power in Deborah Remington's images. They are visually strong - precisely formal, yet mysterious at the same time," Virginia Mecklenberg, curator of painting and sculpture at the National Museum of American Art in Washington, told The Inquirer in 1985.
Miss Remington continued to produce successful pieces in the 1990s, and in 2001 produced one of her best known pieces, Eridan.
She is survived by an aunt and several cousins.
Family and friends are invited to a graveside service at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 28, at the Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery, 402 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield.