Barbara Baker-Bury: Instinct, Intuition, and a
Barbara Baker-Bury's fourth annual exhibit at Brattleboro's Latchis Theatre is showing through the end of January (a portion of sales benefit the Latchis Arts "Seats and Ceiling Campaign" for restoring the theatre). When I asked her to share some information about her development as an artist, she began by saying there was little in the way of formal training. Then she mentioned "at least ten years" of participation in Barbara Merfeld-Campman's "Art & Meditation" group at River Gallery School! Campman (a sort of "midwife" to her student/colleagues), Jill Farwell, and Simi Berman have been particularly supportive influences. The course's non-directive approach, emphasizing using one's intuition and learning by doing, has been an ideal structure for Barbara's growth as an artist. Some of these women also meet at other times to discuss their work.
Another important influence has been the opportunity to go on a "Painting Expedition" or two each summer with old friend Susan Shaw and four or five other members of the Providence Art Club. Their week-long trips to Block Island and Monhegan Island have provided intensive and mutually supportive immersion in the artistic process.
Barbara's Artist Statement reveals how her many years as a serious gardener also prepared her for this work: "My artistic inclination found expression in my garden long before I discovered the joys of painting....
"In the garden I just dive in -- sticking new plants here and there, moving things around, seeing how things look next to each other, until it feels right to me. The garden is a great place to play with color, form and texture; to learn the value of happy accidents and surprising combinations.
"I often paint the way I garden -- with abandon and few plans. It feels like an indulgence, a feast; a happy, happy place for me to be. I see that when you love something, you are most open to learning from it.
"My favorite paintings seem to emerge from the paper like gifts. I find this a fascinating process, completely different from the practice of trying to capture something I am looking at. Working with brushes, palette knives, sometimes my fingers, I apply oil paint to paper. The painting unfolds little by little, each new gesture taking the lead from previous ones, so that a finished piece has depended on itself, rather than an outside source for inspiration. Things work out best for me when natural laws and acquired technique ride along on the wings of instinct and intuition.
"This process results in paintings that are definitely one of a kind, tending toward the abstract, but often suggestive of something quite familiar.... My hope is that my paintings will bring the same joy to the viewer that I have when I paint."
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