Donna Demente is an artist who lives her life as art itself. After two years studying at Elam, Demente chose to pursue her creative development in the South Island, moving first to Dunedin and then settling in the creative community of Oamaru. Here she embarked on a role of actively reviving the civic culture of this historic town.
Demente established the annual mid-winter masquerade and set up the Whitestone Artists' Collective and Grainstore Gallery. Even her home environment has been described as a mix of drama, pre-Raphaelitism, taxidermy and metaphysics Like her cultural activities, Demente's art finds expression across a range of forms and mediums. Always conveying an affinity with the past, Demente has become renowned for her close-up portraiture with a predominant focus on the eyes. The eyes are the artist's signature motif, playing the role of guardian looking over the viewer. Never specific yet full of individual character, the eyes not only create an interaction between the art and the viewer but a dialogue between the works themselves. Donna's eyes are always distinctive, yet they exude a sense of the familiar. Aspects of the Byzantine and elements of Renaissance classicism are clear, for this is an artist who wears her artistic influences on her sleeve. Demente's work is also firmly placed in the present however with her flattened picture plane and isolation of the face - whether that is in painted form, her Venetian style paper-mache masks or her exquisitely painted ostrich eggs. Demente's assiduous research is overt, but her art is never an exercise in imitation or pastiche.
Demente draws her influences heavily from pre-20th Century European art, from a time before art became an individualist critique of society. The artists and art movements that influenced Demente all played an integral part in their society, a goal she strives to achieve in her own practice.