My oil paintings are a vibrant expression of the feminine and the can-do spirit of the Wild American West as embodied by my paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, both award-winning horsewomen. I use saturated colors, often found in nature, to interpret burgeoning growth, beauty and the human form especially of Jennie Pawson and Aeola Huston Mitchell, my cowgirl ancestors. I know these feisty women from stories I heard my father tell and from old photographs showing the time Jennie met Theodore Roosevelt, and another from 1901, when she was named a champion of the Cheyenne, Wyoming Frontier Days. As a child I spent hours on the floor of my grandfather’s music room as Enrico Caruso serenaded me from the Victrola. I gazed in awe at the tall bookcases, art-covered walls and my grandfather’s art nouveau postcard collection. This world of refinement and beauty left a deep impression on me. Then, when I was six years old, after corrective eye surgery, I awoke to discover a world of darkness. Although I eventually healed, this traumatic experience instilled in me a deep appreciation for both beauty and color. My oil paintings are devoted to beauty, especially in its feminine form. I seek to create a visual feast with generous use of vivid colors. My work explores my fascination with the feminine, with eroticism and the perseverance of the human spirit especially as it expresses itself through the award-winning horsewomen who were my grandmother and great grandmother. To create my work, I find inspiration from old family photographs, shapes found in nature and artwork of the turn-of-the-century romantics that I first glimpsed in my grandfather’s music room. I select, reshape, and research to create paintings that guide my viewer to the wisdom, strength and beauty of the eternal feminine found inside each one of us. I work in radiant colors that evoke a lust for life and the kind of fearlessness that I imagine my ancestors had as they endured the hardships and excitement of being horsewomen in the Wild West. I paint to give voice to my cowgirl ancestors and in doing so, to stir the hearts of my audience so that they may find in themselves a quiet strength, both romantic and hard-won.
Debra Benditz is a creative executive, educator and fine art painter working in oil. Her work celebrates the feminine form in all its beauty and luminous color. On the bookshelf in her studio rests a photograph of her grandmother, AEola Huston Mitchell, standing by a horse. Both AEola and her mother, Debra’s great-grandmother, Jennie Pawson, were award-winning horsewomen.
Debra’s latest body of work, Cowgirls was inspired by these women and Debra’s passion for Americana, 19th century history and the zest for life that runs from those two women through Debra’s life today.
Debra holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in studio art from Texas Christian University. She was twice selected to participate in the Hungarian Multicultural Center Artist Residency in Budapest, Hungary. She was the artist chosen by the San Antonio Historic Conservation Society, Texas in 2013 to create the painting for the poster “Night in Old San Antonio.” In 2006, she won dry media honor from the DeSoto Art League Competition in DeSoto, Texas.
Her wanderlust has taken her around the world to climb the pyramids of Mexico, pet California Gray Whales in Baja Mexico, lead a dog-sled team in Canada and indulge her passions for the cities of Vienna, Prague, Paris and Budapest.
Debra’s love of learning led to a stint in culinary school and studies in interior design in Scotland, anatomy for artists in Budapest and art in Paris, France, Brussels, Belgium and Trier, Germany. She’s known for her legendary dinner parties and her mouth-watering white chocolate, cherry bread pudding.
Before becoming a full-time artist, Debra worked as a culinary consultant, CEO and antique rose aficionado and then reinvented herself as a painter of lush and vibrant works inspired by nature and her cowgirl ancestors.
In 1989, Glamour magazine named Debra one of the top ten working women in America. At 26 years old, she had launched her own business, supplying pipe to the oil and gas industry and it was flourishing. A year after winning that award, the muse called, and she sold her business and hit the road.
Her work has been exhibited internationally and is treasured by many private and corporate collections. Born in Ohio, her family roots reach to Germany, England and Eastern Europe. A long-time resident of Texas, Debra thrives on the boldness of her adopted state, especially the can-do attitude of the cowgirl spirit.
Most of Debra's horsewomen paintings are based on her Grandmother AEola and her Great Grandmother Jennie Pawson.
TWIN FALLS, Idaho - Mrs. Geneviene "Jennie" Gladys Pawson Huston, 36, who took part in roundups in Cheyenne and elsewhere in the inter-mountain region, died Tuesday 13 Sep 1921 from internal injuries she received in August, when a horse she was riding bolted and threw her violently against the saddle horn. She is survived by her husband, Alexander N. Huston (aka Harry Huston), 3 children: AEola, Alice & Alexander "Bud" Jr. and 9 siblings.
Jennie was a great horsewoman, entering and winning many contests. She was even congratulated on a horse race win by President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. She was also awarded a pair of Silver Spurs that now reside in the Cowgirl Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.