Deborah Warner, 64, textile artist

Deborah Warner
Deborah Warner
Posted: August 06, 2012

Deborah Warner, 64, a textile artist and faculty member at the Moore College of Art and Design from 1970 until she retired in 2010, died of lung cancer Saturday, July 7, at her home in East Falls.

Ms. Warner was chair of the Moore textile design department for several years and dean of the college from 1990 to 1993.

Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski noted in a 1997 review that "fiber art has been transformed in recent years by imagination, technical adaptation, and willingness to move beyond utility and traditional forms.

"That conceptual expansion is readily apparent," Sozanski wrote, in the work of the eight artists in "Knotted, Stitched and Woven," a Philadelphia Art Alliance exhibition.

"Less conventional work," at the show, Sozanski wrote, "includes Deborah Warner's 'drawings' made with bundles of dyed horsehair."

Ms. Warner's work was also described in a 1998 review of a show by 14 artists at the Pavilion Gallery at Memorial Hospital of Burlington County in Mount Holly.

"The horsehair weavings of Deborah Warner are an expression of the last days of her mother's life, which was spent peering out a window near her bed," the reviewer wrote.

Ms. Warner described those weavings, in the review, this way:

"The blowing curtain of horsehair may veil the external landscape, but it reveals the internal spirituality."

In 1979, she earned an artist's fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2001, the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation in Philadelphia gave her its distinguished teaching award.

A sister, Constance Buchert, said in a phone interview that Ms. Warner was the only artist in a family of five daughters.

"She always knew" that art would make her future, Buchert said.

"She definitely loved the labor intensity of the weaving. She had complete control, but it was extremely time-consuming."

One of her larger commissioned pieces used to hang in the lobby of the Pennwalt building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Buchert said, before the building changed hands.

Ms. Warner's Quaker values influenced her teaching, her sister said. "She wasn't a plain person, but she didn't buy into the glitz and glamour" of the art business.

Born in Philadelphia, Ms. Warner graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1965, earned a bachelor's degree in art education at Moore in 1969, and master's degrees in art education and fine arts, both at Temple University.

While studying at Moore, her sister said, Ms. Warner had "a life-changing experience" with her art in Mexico.

She studied for a time at the University of Guanajuato in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico "and that helped direct her into the textile field."

She accompanied Ingrid Croce, sister of singer Jim Croce, and the women "became lifelong friends."

Ms. Warner began her career as an art teacher in 1969-70 at what is now Gen. Louis Wagner Middle School in Philadelphia.

After joining the Moore art education department in 1970, she became a full professor in September 1985.

She earned Moore faculty development grants in 1982, 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2008 and a distinguished alumnae award in 1999.

Ms. Warner had one-person shows at the Hadler/Rodriguez Gallery in New York City in 1976 and 1979 and at the Miller/Brown Gallery in San Francisco in 1983, among others.

She was in group shows at, among others, the Museum of Art and Design in Helsinki in 2000 and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2002.

In the late 1980s, she and her husband, Carl W. Guckelberger, established the former Guckelberger & Co., a fine arts storage firm in Philadelphia.

In addition to her sister Constance, Ms. Warner is survived by her husband and three other sisters.

A memorial service was set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Germantown Friends Meeting, 47 W. Coulter St.


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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