Being Seen

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Close up of the surface of a painting from the Orbilinia series

I am honored—and really humbled—by a terrific post written about me and my work by Sloan Nota. We have been friends for about 20 years. While our orientation to many aspects of art and art making are very different, we share a mutual and deep respect.

Sloan is wicked clever, devilishly smart and so companionable. But what stood out for me in this post was how close she comes to the bone of how I work and think about art making. I feel seen. That is a very satisfying feeling.

Deborah Barlow: Blogger, Painter, Force of Nature

A few excerpts:

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Barlow reads widely across disciplines and dives deeply. You can go to her blog assured that she has winnowed out the bloviators and winkled out the juicy bits from writers who are real. She also engages with the other arts — visual, musical, dramatic — at an intense pace that would fell me.

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My sense with Barlow’s paintings is that I’m not looking at them, I’m looking into them. Falling into the same kind of space you dial through with a potent microscope. It’s not my space, me standing in the laboratory twiddling knobs, but a space caught in a drop of liquid on a slide or between a glassy painting surface and a canvas.

For us big plodding human meats these are invisible realms available only through a lens. The lens we look through here is our idea of paintings: they hang on a wall and we interact with an image — a face, a place, a maze. Except these imagesless paintings are here to tempt you deep into the paint. There are bubbles, flecks, drifts and no signpost for scale. As at the microscope, you have left your scale at the portal.

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In a studio visit I was introduced to the painter’s technique. Colors get laid on the white canvas, texture builds up, bumps, crevices. Then texture is taken down — sanded maybe? So its Himalayas become eroded plains. I was granted permission to finger this surface, the pigments’ tooth. More layers then, lots of gel medium to retain visibility into the new world abuilding. Additions, erosions, and at the very end clear layers smoothed to a glassy optic. Your window and invitation into the no-image that paint can become. This is not mark-making.

Spend some time and check out Sloan’s work on Green as Sky: A gambol in the goodies. It is luminious, unexpected, inventive and engaging.

6 comments

  1. pianotales’s avatar

    It is a remarkable and wonderfully personal tribute. I would add to the many just observations in this piece my own pleasure too in the intense passionate appreciation — of art, words, friends, music, and on and on — with which you fill your blog space and your warm personal space. You are the truest sort of critic, detecting and conveying beauty.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Andrew, thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad we share so many common spaces.

  2. Maureen’s avatar

    When I read your friend’s post the other day, I thought how wonderfully she’d described you, and with such wit. Her words attest to a deep admiration (which I share) of your many gifts. The room must really light up when the two of you share the same space.

  3. Altoon’s avatar

    It’s wonderful to be written about with such rambunctious enthusiasm; congratulations!

  4. Nancy Natale’s avatar

    Excellent writing about your work! Congratulations to you both!

  5. Sloan Nota’s avatar

    Deb, so glad I got it right. I must confess to a little knee-knocking during that studio visit. She wants me to detach from images and then descend down into the paint — without a bannister? Viscerally uncomfortable to someone besotted with the conversations images have together. All the more rewarding to discover the alternative universe within your paint.

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