“Among the people pictured in “One Family,” Deborah Addison Coburn’s show at Studio Gallery, are Iranians, Indians, Polish Jews, Japanese Hawaiians, Chinese Canadians and a clan whose heritage includes Africa, Europe and pre-Columbian North America. They’re all part of the American bloodline — although “blood tapestry” might be a more accurate term.
Working from vintage family photos, Coburn renders her and other people’s ancestors in large, realist charcoal drawings. She supplements the primary images with tints, embroidery and, most often, fabric. The cloth evokes domestic life, adds specific ethnic details and represents the portability of inherited culture. Land and dwellings must be left behind; kimonos and tablecloths can travel.
Several pictures depict families of other Studio Gallery artists, some of whom added their own touches. Thus, Coburn’s depiction of Freda Lee McCann’s forebears includes McCann’s Chinese calligraphy. Such contributions are poignantly personal but don’t detract from the portraits’ universality. In the title drawing, Coburn combines members of unrelated households to express a threatened ideal: e pluribus unum.”
-Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, October 2018