Northeastern Nevada Artist

Artist: Deborah Finley

Contributed by Susanne Kaime Reese

This month we honor the work of ceramics artist Deborah Finley, a long time resident of Nevada. Deborah taught ceramics courses at Great Basin College and was a special education and art teacher working in the Elko County School District. Her life experiences also include a career as dispatcher and computer technician for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Ms. Finley attended Cottey College, the University of Washington, and earned her masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

“My ceramic work has always been inspired by nature,” Deborah Finley says. “My dad was an exploration geologist. He was always explaining the earth’s formation and scientific processes. For me, working with clay that is derived from the earth is an easy step to connecting the earth with my art. Many of my pieces are inspired by the colors, textures, shapes, and landforms I have observed in the natural environment. Clay and what I can create with it, dominate my art life.

A literal example of this connection would be my ceramic molds inspired by the playa in the Black Rock Desert. The Black Rock Desert is a semiarid region dominated by playa and lava beds. The silt playa, 100 miles north of Reno, encompasses more than 300,000 acres. Playas are often formed from dry lake beds, which periodically fill with water. Once the water evaporates, the silt shrinks and cracks. Deb Finley explains she creates her sculpture by taking molds of the playa. She pressed clay onto molds to stimulate the cracks and crevices of the playa, then interpreted her impressions of the remote desert land and created tiles and basin shapes which originated from these molds. It is a technique she learned during the Friends of Black Rock – High Rock Artist-in-Residence Program. My molds are very lifelike and realistic. A true reflection of earth science, captured in art. 

Deborah Finley and painter Patty Fox were featured artists exhibiting in the Leonard Center for Student Life, at Great Basin College Art Gallery. The exhibit titled “Playa to Peaks, Northern Nevada’s Inspiration” showcased Deborah’s recent and most creative work. 

Ms. Finley was selected to create the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Award, featured a design inspired by the Black Rock Desert. The fifth annual awards paid tribute to artist and organizations actively contributing to Elko’s transformation into an arts town. Mayor Keener presented awards in four categories praising the accomplishments of the recipients and Elko’s Arts and Culture Advisory Board. “I think art enriches us as a community,” the Mayor stated.

Contact Deborah at

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