Deborah Caiola

Recent Works

Artist's Biography

After earning a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and an early career as a social worker, Deborah Caiola returned to school to earn a Certificate in Painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has been exhibiting her work on and off since 1998, and her work has been widely collected. Deborah has earned her living as a teacher for the past twenty years. She has taught drawing, painting, photography, mixed media, portfolio preparation, and printmaking and is the Visual Arts Department Chair for grades PreK-12 at Friends Select School in center city Philadelphia. Before that, Deborah taught drawing and painting for nine years at Villanova University and printmaking and mixed media arts to adults with mental disabilities at Oasis Arts and Education. Deborah has won several grants and awards for her art including the Leeway Transformation Award in 2009.

Artist's Statement

I am interested in exploring materials and in creating work about the human condition and identity. By enabling the viewer to experience the emotional reality of the subjects I paint, I attempt to challenge assumptions and mainstream beliefs and to celebrate that which unites us as humans. Initially, in the 1990’s, my passion took the shape of creating portraiture. I painted portraits from life, from photos, as many and as often as I could. Later, in the early 2000’s, I examined social interaction and cultural entities with two large-scale ethnographic projects in which I used both individual and group interviews to engage with my subjects and with other artists.

Currently, intuition and imagination drives my work. I create images of characters, birds, trees, roots, and other organic forms and imbue them with anthropomorphic ideas and concepts, mostly related to social and spiritual themes. I always work in series and almost exclusively out of my head. I start with an idea and allow the medium and the experience of painting to direct the work so that the product is a combination of planning and improvisation. My goal is to create work that is visually dynamic, deeply personal, and that encourages conversation.

My most recent body of work, Muses Guardians, and Saints is a series of 12 large paintings of characters that reflect some of the multiple—often-conflicting—identities that exist within each of us. They are essential human attributes that we embody consciously and unconsciously, temporarily, and constantly, as we interact with one another, the world, and internally with ourselves. This body of work follows a long history of archetypal studies: the Kabbalah, the Tarot, the Classical Temperaments, the Enneagram, the 21 Taras of Buddhism, Carl Jung’s twelve fundamental traits, the Myers-Briggs, the many faces of the Hindu Deities, and countless more. By acknowledging our potential, as well as our dualities, we cultivate balance within ourselves.


To see more of my work:
My student’s work:

Selected Exhibitions

Muses, Guardians, and Saints, The InLiquid Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Portrait of a Generation, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Deborah Caiola New Works, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Kin, The Arts League University City, Philadelphia, PA

Bridgette Mayer Friends of the Rail Park Benefit Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA

Anniversary Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Anniversary Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Transgression Artists' Collective Arts Festival, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA

Women in Their Daily Lives, The Grace Institute, New York, NY

Black and White, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Out Loud and Proud, William Way 30th Anniversary Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA

The Red Show, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Faculty Show, Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Drawing as Drawing, Drawing in Painting, Olmsted Gallery, Harrisburg, PA

Gallery Artist Group Exhibition: Survey of New Works, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Works on Paper, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Barbie Show, Muse Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Tellenium Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Curated Exhibitions
Portraits in Emotion, Fountain Gallery, New York, NY
Curator and Artist

Portraits in Emotion, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, PA


2010 - Present
Friends Select School, Philadelphia, PA
Visual Arts Department Chair
Upper School Art Teacher

2009 - 2017
Denison University, Granville, OH
Orientation lecturer and workshop leader for incoming art students
Created a one-day portrait project that incorporated interviews, drawing, printmaking, and discussion

2008 - 2010
Oasis Arts and Education, Philadelphia, PA
Printmaking for adults with mental cognitive disabilities

2001 - 2010
Villanova University, Villanova, PA
Adjunct Professor, Painting and Drawing

2001 - 2004
Oasis Arts and Education, Philadelphia, PA
Printmaking for adults with mental cognitive disabilities

Commissions and Collections

Over the past twenty years Deborah has painted more than forty portraits for commission, including a six-foot portrait of opera singer Marian Anderson that hangs at the Capitol Grille Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA.

Grants and Residencies

Leeway Transformation Award

Leeway Foundation Art and Change Award

Oasis Studio, Philadelphia, PA
Artist in Residence

Leeway Foundation, Window of Opportunity Grant

Leeway Foundation, Window of Opportunity Grant

Linda Lee Alter Award for Outstanding Achievement