Donna Backues




Archived Work

Artist's Biography

Donna Backues has a BA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from Southern Illinois University and an MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She is currently working toward an MA in Urban Studies & Community Arts, from Eastern University.

After finishing her undergraduate degree in 1985, Donna worked as a graphic designer for several years. In 1989, she moved to Indonesia and lived for 18 years raising two children and working alongside her husband in a grass roots development organization. For the first couple of years, Donna invested time in language and culture learning as well as devoting time to painting, drawing, and learning the Javanese technique of batik at a small home industry near her home.

During her last 10 years in Southeast Asia, she founded a village community health program and a community arts program. Her interest in indigenous art forms led to her starting 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.

Besides having worked as a teaching artist at the Village of Arts and Humanities and the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, she has been awarded numerous residencies through the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Delphi Art Futures program and Art Partners program and Spiral Q Puppet Theater. In 2013 Donna won first prize in the American Batik Design Competition and in 2014 she was awarded the Art & Change Grant by the Leeway foundation. Besides painting in her studio, Donna teaches, conducts workshops and works at SEAMAAC as an outreach worker for the Indonesian community in South Philadelphia. Four of her paintings are in the Philadelphia Convention Center’s permanent collection. Her murals can be seen in Philadelphia, Camden, NJ and in Leeds, England, and her paintings have been collected and exhibited internationally in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Artist's Statement

My landscapes, aerialscapes and cityscapes are imagined landscapes of memory, thoughts and feelings inspired by real places or events. I attempt to create subtly dark and broody undercurrents beneath myriads of deliberately drawn marks on the surface.

Selected Exhibitions

Imagined Landscapes, Pennswood Gallery, Newtown, PA

Recollections & Hope, McInnis Gallery, Eastern University, St. David’s, PA

Monotypes, Redpoint Gallery, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Watercolors, Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Watercolors, Centre Culturel Francais, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Two Philly Artists, The Monkey & the Elephant, Philadelphia, PA

Holiday Show, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Fleisher, 4x6 Inches of Art, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA

American Batik Design Exhibit, Alleira Batik, Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta

Group Mural Artists, The Hall, Inliquid at Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Artists, Gallery of the Chambers of Commerce, Philadelphia, PA

American Batik Design Exhibit, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Washington D.C.

Score & Slip, Marguerita Hagan & Pierre Trombert Studios, Philadelphia, PA

Backpack Gallery Installation, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, PA

Inaugural Exhbition, Studio: Christensen, Philadelphia, PA

Selections from the 109th Annual Student Exhibit, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Women’s Board, Philadelphia, PA

MFA Thesis Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

The Figure Drawn, Leeds Central Library Gallery, Leeds, England

Pelukis Dari Bandung, Galeri Bandung, W. Java, Indonesia

Tasikmalaya Artist Group, Gedung Kesenian, Tasikmalaya, W. Java, Indonesia

Tasikmalaya Artist Group, Surya Hotel, Pangandaran, W. Java, Indonesia

Selected Works, Southern Illinois University Gallery, Edwardsville, IL

Artist's Bibliography

Chenevert, Bill, "East Passyunk Crossing gets artsy," South Philly Review, March 5, 2015

Interviewed by Kartini Magazine, Jakarta, Indonesia

Iman, Dhania, "Donna Backues Membatik," Voice of America Indonesia, Washington D.C., November 10, 2015

"Seniman Amerika Ini Lestarikan Batik d Negaranya," National Geographic Indonesia, December 9, 2014

"American Artist, Student, and Professor Win Batik Design Competition," The Jakarta Post World News, October 31,2013

"Interview & Demonstration of Water based Monotype Technique with commentary by artist Suhardi Soedarsono" Padjadjaran Television, Bandung, January 21, 2007


Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA
Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
Redpoint Studio Gallery in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
Dolan/Maxwell Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Indonesian Embassy, Washington, DC


Eastern University, St. Davids, PA
(Pending) MA, Urban Studies in Community Arts

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL
BA, Graphic Design