In this body of work, there are references to aerial landscapes, volcanoes, craters, bodies of water and land-based forms originally inspired by my years living in Southeast Asia. Some of my works are imaginary islands like inner landscapes of memory seen from above and others are emotional responses to specific events or historical paintings. They are all created with landscapes in mind.
Donna Backues has a BA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from Southern Illinois University, an MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and an MA in Urban Studies & Community Arts, from Eastern University.
Donna began her career as a graphic designer and then moved to Indonesia in 1989 and lived for 18 years integrating her visual art skills with grass roots development work. She founded a village community health program and a community arts program. Her interest in indigenous art forms led to her co-founding a handicraft non-profit supporting local artisans in West Java as well as designing batik textiles and woven products for export. She also created illustrations, manuals, and teaching aids for development projects including materials used in relief efforts during the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
After returning to the US and finishing her MFA in 2010, Donna taught at the Village of Arts and Humanities, Mural Arts Philadelphia and Fleisher Art Memorial. She has been awarded numerous artist residencies through the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Delphi Art Futures and Art Partners program, Spiral Q and Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts. In 2013 Donna won first prize in the American Batik Design Competition, in 2014 she was awarded the Art & Change Grant by the Leeway foundation and in 2017 she was awarded the NewCourtland Fellowship.
In 2018, Donna received an MA in Urban Studies with a concentration in Community Arts. Donna currently works at SEAMAAC, Inc. as the Coordinator of Community & Family Wellness serving the immigrant and refugee population in South Philadelphia where her years of cross-cultural experience, Indonesian language ability and community arts experience is regularly put to use.
Along with her community work, Donna continues to work as a studio artist. Four of her paintings are in the Philadelphia Convention Center’s permanent collection. Her public murals can be seen in Philadelphia, Camden New Jersey and in Leeds, England. Her paintings have been collected and exhibited internationally in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
2018 Eastern University, St. Davids, PA MA, Urban Studies in Community Arts
2010 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA MFA
1985 Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL BA, Graphic Design & Studio Art
Awards & Honors
2018 Eastern University, St. David's PA Outstanding Graduate Thesis Award Honorable Mention
2017 - 2018 Philadelphia International Unity Cup Art Grant, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
2017 Shared Interest Grant for Artists, Elysian Fields and Little Baby's Ice Cream
Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA NewCourtland Fellowship
Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA Dolan/Maxwell Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Indonesian Embassy, Washington D.C. Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia Redpoint Studio/Gallery, Bandung, Indonesia
2016 Large mural for the Camden County Historical Museum, Camden, NJ
2014 Redesign & repainting of Lily Yeh's "Magic Garden" mural, Village of the Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA
2012 Window scrim murals for the Septa Substation on 13th & East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
2011 Illustrations for the Shot Tower Park signage for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia, PA
2006 Illustrated teaching aids for the Elementary School Literacy program in Aceh, Indonesia
2005 Coloring book for Acehnese children during the Asian Tsunami relief efforts, Indonesia
2002 Two murals for Dine China Restaurant, Leeds, UK
Three murals for Little Tokyo Restaurant, Leeds, UK
2011 - 2016 The Village of Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA Studio Arts Instructor
2012 - 2013 KIPP Academy Charter, Philadelphia, PA Art Teacher
2010 - 2011 Mural Arts Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA Lead Teaching Artist
2010 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Summer Art Camp Instructor
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA Graduate Assistant in Drawing
1996 - 2007 Bamboo Hill Academy International School, Tasikmalaya, Indonesia Art Teacher
1990 - 1991 Dana Mulia Orphanage, Bandung West Java, Indonesia Art Teacher
2017 Imagined Landscapes, Pennswood Gallery, Newtown, PA
2008 Recollections, McInnis Gallery, Eastern University, St. David’s, PA
2007 Monotypes, Redpoint Gallery, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
1995 Watercolors II, Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
1994 Watercolors I, Centre Culturel Francais, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
2019 Downriver in the Multiverse, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA