Piece of Work: Deborah T. Colter

Time and tide.

I always try to think of my work as visual poetry.

Every artist wants to grab the viewer’s attention, but you might say that Deborah T. Colter does her part to stack the deck. Layer upon layer in her abstract work, she adds new colors, lines, dots, and sometimes discernible images, all designed to pique interest. “I love to kind of pull you in a little deeper, have you contemplate what is there, and not just breeze by and see it quickly,” she said.

Born in upstate New York, Colter came to the Vineyard during her summers as a college student at the Rhode Island School of Design and met her future husband, Islander Richard Colter Jr.

At her home studio in Aquinnah, Colter creates mixed media pieces using a variety of collage materials. “I start by building up layers of paint,” she said of the initial dive into a piece. “I don’t necessarily set out to create a specific look with my work....A single mark or a color will inspire me.”

For the 12-x-12-inch acrylic on panel mixed media piece titled Time and Tide, shown above, Colter said she was playing around with image transfers of the fish, which led to adding lines from sewing patterns, and even a tidal chart. “[It] just seemed to make sense with that,” she explained.

“I try to allow the magic to happen right on the board, or the canvas, or whatever it is I’m working on.

“I always try to think of my work as visual poetry.” 

Colter’s work can be seen at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven and online at