cleaning the studio...

...and other adventures in art

3 + 7

“3 + 7” is the name of the collaborative sculpture that Jamie Abbott, Roy Holmberg and I did for the upcoming show Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  This exhibit was beautifully curated by Susana Arias.

We have a reception this Saturday, May 20, 3-6pm.  An announcement can be found here.  This will be a great time to come see the show and meet the artists.

Now, on to all these photos.  I know that common sense dictates that I have included too many of them, but it was a complicated project with three artists and many steps.  Anyway, I know that I myself like to hear about what other artists do in the studio, so I’m hoping that you do too.

If you open a photo, you’ll get a captioned slideshow.  Or you can simply view the thumbnails and take a guess what we’re doing.  If that’s too much effort(!), just ignore the photos altogether, and come see our sculpture in person!  We’d love to tell you all about it at the reception.

We have a full statement about the piece at the arboretum, but you can also find it here.

 

how it’s made

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

 

I finished this piece, Making My Own Paradise, a few months ago, but, although I’d taken a lot of in-progress photos, I didn’t post many of them.  It was a complex creation and assembly process…it took over a year from start to finish…but I am happy with the resulting piece.

Here are plenty of pictures and some descriptions of what it is that I’m showing you. Click on that first photo and you can scroll through the rest of them with captions. And more photos of the finished piece can be found here, along with other pieces from the Iceland/Ísland series.

spring studio sale at mission industrial studios

We’re having a Spring Studio Sale at Mission Industrial Studios!

Where: Mission Industrial Studios, 2573 Mission St., Santa Cruz
When: May 6-7, 1pm-6pm

Many of you have visited me at Open Studios, but this is not the same sort of event.  My studio is currently very much in a working state, with plastic sheeting on my working walls and projects in progress (in other words, I’m not exactly cleaning up!). I have pieces in progress, projects that I’m contemplating, and plenty of finished work, both old and new. I’m offering discounts on some pieces, hoping to find the right home for them. And ten of my neighbors are also open, so it is a big event for us.

I’ll be showing some older pieces, like these…

and newer pieces, like these…

I hope to see you there!

 

making my own paradise

Some of you saw this piece at Open Studios in October, still in need of a frame.  Finally!  It’s finished!

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame, 56″ x 81″ x 3″, 2016

Making My Own Paradise started several years ago, during a summer trip to Iceland. I saw this barn regularly on a trail, perched slightly above my eye level as I walked uphill towards it. From this spot, it has no visible doors or windows, and it perfectly touches the triad of earth and horizon and sky.

I photographed it over several years, in all seasons and weather, and then I started drawing and painting it back home in my studio. I became a bit obsessed with The Barn.

It took on a personal meaning to me, reminding me of things incomprehensible and unknowable. Its physical form seems to exist only to illustrate this abstract concept. What is inside? From my view on the trail it is impossible to know. I can guess, I can believe, but I cannot be certain. I’m not allowed to enter it, or at least not yet.

Of course I know I can walk around to the other side and peer in, but that isn’t the point. I’m viewing it and painting it from my spot on the trail, where it is impenetrable.

What. Is. Behind. That. Wall.

That’s the genesis of the piece, but the process of making it was lengthy; it turned out to be a large and complex project. The wax part—the painting—caused the least struggle. But there was also interminable prep and finishing work.  At one point my studio neighbor pointed out to me that I had taken a natural process (rust, for the steel frame) and turned it into a laborious multi-week process. But it had to be right!

It has given to me as much as I’ve given to it though. There were some surprising discoveries in the making of it that spur me to some future work. And I like seeing it in my studio for now, awaiting a trip to stARTup LA in a few weeks.

 

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

from the side

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

view showing frame

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of top panel

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of center panel

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of bottom panel

stARTup LA

I’m excited to have been selected as one of the participating artists at stARTup Fair LA at the end of January 2017.  Click on the image below to go to their website for more details.

I’ll be showing pieces from my Iceland/Ísland series as well as other recent work.  I have a few extra admission passes; please contact me if you’re interested.

 

the fetal position

For that popular-vote majority of voters who, like myself, are unhappy with the results of the presidential election, I offer these figures in the fetal position.  That’s all, nothing more.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Haven (I), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas

Haven (I), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas (hung directly on wall with nails though grommets), 72″ x 106″, 2012

 

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Haven (II), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas

Haven (II), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas (hung directly on wall with nails though grommets), 70″ x 107″, 2012

 

 

an inviting leaf

My sculpture that is in Art in the Arboretum: Color (see my previous post) started life as a wall sculpture, as photographed here.

Now installed outdoors and low to the ground in a garden setting, it’s a different sort of sculpture entirely.  It’s dramatic on the wall, and looks almost opaque to me, but outside near the ground it’s much quieter and the mesh looks more transparent than in these photos.  It blends in well with it’s surroundings. I like it in both places, for different reasons, but seeing it in a new way gives me some ideas about working again with this steel-mesh material.

 

An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60" x 60" x 36", 2009

An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60″ x 60″ x 36″, 2009, photo by RR Jones

detail of An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60" x 60" x 36", 2009

detail of An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60″ x 60″ x 36″, 2009, photo by RR Jones

art in the arboretum: color

I am thrilled to be included in the current exhibit at the UCSC Arboretum, Art in the Arboretum: Color.  It’s a beautiful exhibit in a gorgeous setting.  I love the experience of spying a sculpture off in the distance through the foliage, and, as I walk towards it, being distracted by another sculpture that I discover on the way.  I truly hope you will be able to see it for yourself.  If you can come this Friday, November 4, 4-6pm, you can meet the artists at our First Friday reception.  But you can visit the arboretum any time to  walk the grounds and discover it for yourself.  More details can be found on the UCSC Arboretum website.

In addition to the First Friday reception this week, there is a metal-working workshop from 1-4pm on Friday which should be fun and informative.  Sign up!  Click on the thumbnails below for more details on both the exhibit and the workshop.

artinthearboretumcolormetal-workshop

sculpture is: in the gallery

I’m thrilled to be a part of this fabulous show at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council Gallery. Many thanks the the gallery and curators for putting together such an exciting and vibrant show.

announcement-sculpture-is-both

I was pleased to learn that my two assemblage sculptures made with repurposed chair legs, rawhide and horsehair have sold already. I will be working on similar pieces in a demo at the gallery on May 15 before the reception. See the announcement above for details.

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Duck Disguise, Repurposed Chair Leg, Horsehair, Steel, 7" x 23" x 8", 2013

Duck Disguise, Repurposed Chair Leg, Horsehair, Steel, 7″ x 23″ x 8″, 2013

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Heron Disguise, Repurposed Chair Leg, Rawhide, Steel, Upholstery Tacks, 7" x 34" x 7", 2013

Heron Disguise, Repurposed Chair Leg, Rawhide, Steel, Upholstery Tacks, 7″ x 34″ x 7″, 2013

I have three pieces from my Artifacts series in the show as well, though I have yet to blog about this new sculpture series. These are my newest pieces and I will be writing about them soon. Click on the image below to see more of these sculptures, and come to the gallery to see them in person!

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Artifacts (IV), Plaster and Mixed-Media

detail of Artifacts (IV), Plaster and Mixed-Media, 13″ x 14″ x 11″, 2016

ten months

If you’ve read this blog over the past year, you’ll know that I’ve been doing some pieces based on the Iceland landscape. I’ve never blogged about why I started working with that landscape to begin with, and, as a side note, why I haven’t posted since October 2.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Talisman (V), Charcoal, Chalk, Wax, Pencil on Paper

Talisman (V), Charcoal, Chalk, Wax, Pencil on Paper, 38″ x 50″, 2015

It starts with this…my sister Carol and I fell in love with Iceland several years ago when we went there specifically to ride Icelandic horses. We loved it for similar reasons (which had little to do with horses): a certain resonance that we found within ourselves for its overwhelming space and sky and land, its weather and its people, and with all those things that make Iceland what it is.

So we went there when we could. Again and again. In the summer, in the winter, in the seasons in-between. When we were there, I photographed that landscape, and I collected materials, and I contemplated the horizon.

I found myself generally frustrated with my attempts to approach the landscape from an artistic perspective. That land and sky are already full and complete and wholly contained within themselves. And they are big, in spite of the notion that Iceland is a small island in the middle of a big ocean. Every vista was expansive. Around every corner was a new perspective, just as heartbreakingly-beautiful as the last.

My sister and I were mesmerized by the land and sky and ocean, but my paper and canvases felt too small for the task at hand. Every time I tried to work with it, I ended up gazing around in wonder and getting side-tracked with the sheer beauty of the place.

Then Carol was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. With treatment, she could gain some time to do those things that she needed to do. Spending time with siblings and parents was first on that list, but Iceland was also on that list. During our medical trips to UCSF, hoping to be on the positive side of the statistics, we talked about Iceland. Sometimes we just silently crossed our fingers. But that got me thinking…if Carol can’t go to Iceland again, maybe I can bring it to her.

So I started my drawings of Iceland, focusing on buildings and the horizon line. I knew I couldn’t bring the immensity of the landscape to her, but I could bring her some familiar views.  I imagined that I would be able to surround her with Iceland, with drawings on every wall and spare corner in my studio. Mind you, it’s not that I exactly envisioned that this would happen in “real life”…it’s not like that. It’s not that literal, not that direct. It was the intention of the work though. It was the impetus, the genesis, the seed of an idea.

Originally my buildings had no doors, and Carol noticed and mentioned it to me. It didn’t bother me; the door seemed unimportant to the drawing. But one night I woke up in a cold sweat as I realized that having no door meant that we had no entrée to that world again. Acting on that feeling, I added doors to all the drawings the next morning, wrote this post (here), and changed the name of the series to “Talisman”.

It must have worked, because we went back to Iceland three times last summer. Back home again, ten months after her diagnosis, Carol passed away, on October 10.

The Iceland work (here) continues, in drawing and painting and mixed-media form. The place now has a deeply layered meaning to me, all tangled up with the person that I’m missing. — Takk fyrir Carol, og megi reiðtúrinn aldrei enda.

 

photo of cairn in Iceland

Carol making a cairn in Iceland

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