Self-portrait Workshop: "A Few Of My Favorite Things"

What a blast! On August 20,  I had the great privilege of a teaching a workshop at the New Museum Los Gatos.  The workshop was called "A Few Of My Favorite Things."   I asked the participants to bring some of their favorite things -- objects which symbolize parts of their lives, stories and personalities.  They brought a wonderful array of beloved objects -- an ice skate, chess pieces, a child's violin, a unicorn, a sports' medal.  

I showed them images of famous artists' self-portraits -- Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Elisabeth Vigee Le-Brun, etc.  And we talked about how each artist was allowing us to see who they were (or wanted to be?) at that moment in time.  We talked about how the self-portraits made us FEEL.  One girl said that Van Gogh's portrait made her feel lonely.  Ah, yes......

I showed them how to arrange their objects in a composition that pleased the eye and told their "stories" in an interesting way.  Then we created our self-portraits -- sketching first in pencil and then completing the works in colored pencil on Bristol board.  I was in awe at the openness,  curiosity and fearlessness of the kids -- and the one adult in the class.  A wonderful journey into the world of portraiture and of expressing one's inner self through art. 

"Portrait of O'Keeffe (in absentia)

Georgia O'Keeffe has been one of my great muses for many years.  She is a polestar in my life as an artist.  I deeply admire her for her devotion to her art and for her courage, resilience and powerful sense of self.

In my new painting, "Portrait of O'Keeffe (in absentia)", I pay tribute to my muse.  I arranged natural objects important in her life and work.  The iris and the shells are subjects in many of her paintings. But why the stones?  Well, O'Keeffe was famous for loving and collecting (some say rapaciously) stones.  She placed her collection of stones throughout her homes and properties.  A famous story -- perhaps a tiny bit exaggerated -- tells of a trip she took with Ansel Adams.  He discovered a perfect river stone and O'Keeffe begged him to let her have it.  He refused (I assume with humor and a touch of mischief?) and took it to his house.  Years later, he visited O'Keeffe and noticed HIS stone amongst her collection.  She had pinched in while on a visit to his house and was not the least bit ashamed about being discovered.

I had O'Keeffe in mind when I created the composition.  Her own compositions are strong, direct, clear and forthright -- like her own spirit.  And so I strove to capture some of that strength (and the beauty found therein) in my own painting. 

"Portrait of O'Keeffe (in absentia)" 
Oil on Linen
12 x 12"
By Elizabeth Barlow

What Beauty Has To Say

For some time now, I've been reading and studying about the idea of beauty and what its presence -- or absence -- means to our spirits, bodies and society.  I believe that beauty is for our spirits just as food and water are for our bodies.  It nourishes, replenishes, heals, revives and fortifies.  But so often in the digital noise and busy-ness of our contemporary world, we skip over beauty, or rush past it, or even deny it a place in our lives.   Matisse wrote that "there are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them."  

My newest painting, "What Beauty Has To Say" is an ode to inviting the presence of beauty into our lives.  Beauty is there - waiting to be accepted -- in a flower, in music, in poetry, in art.  I wonder how one's world and world view could be changed by intentionally slowing, stopping and pausing for beauty.  I pause for beauty - do you? 

"What Beauty Has To Say", oil on linen, 24 x 24", at Gallerie Citi, Burlingame, CA

Now showing at Dandelion

Steve Fletcher and Carl Croft own the most beautiful store in San Francisco. It is called Dandelion.  Over many years they have curated an astonishing collection of beautiful and exquisite objects for the tabletop, garden, library and kitchen.  Their tastes run from Japanese simplicity to Art Deco to mountain cabin. 

And lucky for THIS artist, they are dear friends and love to support my work.  For a limited time they are featuring a few of my paintings at Dandelion, and they have created a beautiful vignette for each painting. 

It's fascinating to have one's work selected and then paired with another object d'art.  In someone else's eyes, my work takes on new meaning and feeling. 

Thank you, Steve and Carl -- you've made this girl feel very blessed! 

55 Potrero Avenue
San Francisco, CA
Open 10-6, every day except Sunday

The Truth About Beauty

I've just delivered my newest painting, "The Truth About Beauty," to Gallerie Citi.  It is a meditation on the nature of beauty.  What IS it about certain things -- an abstract work of art, a sea shell, a flower, an ancient Egyptian sculpture-- that we acknowledge are beautiful, yet they are all from such different realms.  What makes something beautiful - across eons and vastly different cultures?  I'm mystified and intrigued by the question.  I believe that at the heart of the answer -- and it is nearly impossible to express in words -- is the fact that perceiving beauty and being moved by it is the essence of being human.   Does beauty remind us of the transience of life?  Does beauty require that we pause and be present in that moment?  I don't know the answer, yet, but I love thinking about it and looking for ways to explore the question on canvas in paint. 

"The Truth About Beauty"
Oil on Linen
24 x 24"





What a DELIGHT it was to be interviewed by Curator Marrianne McGrath at the New Museum Los Gatos on Saturday -- about my art, my creative process and my inspirations -- at my Artist Talk at the Museum.

Marianne's questions were thought-provoking and insightful ("What kind of art are you drawn to?"  "What is the best piece of advice you've been given?" "How do you know when a painting is finished?") -- and it was also stimulating to hear comments and observations from the audience members (the few brave souls who made their way through that day's maelstrom!).

We also talked at length about my "Self-Portrait in Absentia" which is hanging in the museum as part of the "More Than Your Selfie" exhibition.  Marianne's intention as curator of the exhibit is to get people to think of self-portraits (by artists and non-artists) as more than just a selfie of you (and your lunch!)-- a self-portrait involves a series of questions and decisions -- what do I want to say about myself at this moment in time -- what do I want to reveal -- what do I choose to conceal?  

Fascinating and profound questions to ponder.....

Curator Marianne McGrath and I chatting in front of my painting "Self-Portrait in Absentia."

Fabulous artist and blogger Marie Cameron (check out her great purse!) and me in front of my painting "Self-Portrait in Absentia."

The interview -- in the exhibition gallery....

And here I am showing a work in progress -- hot off my studio easel......

I love it when inspiration comes in unexpected encounters.  I was approached in late in 2015 with a tantalizing proposition - to create a "self-portrait" for an exhibition at the New Museum Los Gatos called "More Than Your Selfie." The museum curator, Maryann McGrath, encouraged me to "reveal" aspects of my SELF in the painting.

What a prospect! I have been painting "portraits in absentia" for over 5 years - they are illuminations of people, real or imagined, using objects or their own belongings - to tell stories in paint about their lives, journeys, and selves.

And now I was asked to turn this eye on myself. How to choose objects that reveal something about my true self - my story and my thoughts? What to reveal and what not to reveal?

The painting that emerged, "Self Portrait in Absentia," was a revelatory journey. I selected objects that "show" an aspect of me (my beloved red lipstick), some objects with deep personal meaning (my father's palette knife), and I included postcards of art that resonate profoundly with me.
And I decided to "invent"  two books I wish existed -- whose subjects are ideas and values I cherish.

This painting has opened up worlds of enticing new ideas to explore and encounter in future paintings.  Here's to chance encounters.....

"Self-Portrait in Absentia," oil in linen, 24x36"
By Elizabeth Barlow

New Museum Los Gatos
"More Than Your Selfie",  exhibition
Jan 21-May 15, 2016

I've just discovered a wonderful new art blog -- written by Marie Cameron.  She is a Bay Area artist and passionate blogger who writes with perception, curiosity and a wonderful inner "eye" on her artistic discoveries.

I met her at Art Silicon Valley/SF -- and I was delighted to read today that she mentioned my work in her recent overview of Art Silicon Valley -- and posted a pic she snapped of me in front of one of my paintings in the Gallerie Citi booth.

Here is what she wrote:

"I had the pleasure of meeting San Francisco based artist,Elizabeth Barlow, represented by Gallerie Citi of Burlingame. Her “portraits in absentia” are still lives of personal possessions that paint a portrait of their owners. Her work is meticulous, flawless realism that is embued with a sense of fun and lots of personality."
BRAVA Marie -- thanks for sharing the things that delight your eye!

And here is a link to her fantastic blog about making and creating art.....

Yesterday at Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco, gallery owner extraordinaire Andra Norris gave a symposium on two of her artists -- Kim Frohsin and myself.

Kim has a new series titled Cautionary Tales -- in which she has explored (on foot, with camera in hand) the changing cityscape of her beloved San Francisco.  She has documented the changes she sees -- old buildings being replaced with high rises -- and the resulting displacement of long time residents -- into her paintings.  Her paintings are colorful, beautiful yet eloquent collages of these changes.

My new paintings are the latest evolution of my "portraits in absentia" series, in which I paint portraits of people -- real or imagined -- using their belongings to recount their stories, choice and lives. Lately, I've chosen the clothing that we choose to cover (or adorn)  ourselves with -- our uniforms, our flamboyance, our circumstances, our celebrations.  I believe that our clothing retains something of our essence -- our truest selves -- even after we have discarded it.

Andra spoke deeply and perceptively about Kim's and my journeys of discovery and alchemy -- as we explored and then brought to life our newest work.

What a gift it is to hear a passionate art lover, art thinker, art collector discuss one's work!  Thank you Andra!

Art Silicon Valley/SF is produced by Art Miami and I'm thrilled that my work will be presented there this week by Gallerie Citi -- Oct. 8-11.  It's an exciting showcase for contemporary art from around the world -- and I can't wait to see what wonders I will find there....

 I will be unveiling my newest "portraits in absentia" -- these paintings are "portraits" using belongings (clothing) rather than faces or figures to describe people's lives.   I believe that our clothing retains the shape of our essences and leaves behind a symbolic trace of our selves and our stories.

"Spooned," oil on linen, 24 x 36"

"Pas de Deux", oil on linen, 20 x 30"

I could have stayed all night!  I am usually so nervous for the opening of an exhibition -- it's like being an actor before the curtain rises on opening night -- wishing I were anyplace ELSE.  But for the first time EVER, I was excited for the opening of "REAL: Elizabeth Barlow and Willard Dixon" at Gallerie Citi.  Maybe I have a few enough of these openings under my belt by now?  Or maybe I am just so proud of this new work and wanted to share it with my friends and collectors.  It was truly a pleasure to see familiar faces and be able to show them what I've been working on for the past 8 months.

It was also such a privilege to share the exhibition with Willard Dixon.  He is a noted Bay Area artist, who paints beautifully in every genre -- landscape, figurative and still life.  In this exhibition, he is sharing some of his new trompe l'oeil paintings -- they are astonishingly "real" -- but still retain an other worldly air found in most of his work.

"REAL", at Gallerie Citi, 1115 Howard Avenue, Burlingame, CA, until November 6, 2015.

This is another new painting waiting to be revealed at the Opening Reception of REAL -- a two person exhibition with Willard Dixon and myself at Gallerie Citi -- September 19, from 5-7pm.  The exhibition runs through November 6. 

"Yin/Yang," Oil on Linen, 24 x 30 

For several years now I have been working to entwine the traditions of still life painting and portraiture.  I call these paintings "portraits in absentia."  I use people's belongings, most recently their shoes, as stand-ins for their visages or bodies, to create "portraits" that illustrate their lives and stories.

On September 19 at Gallerie Citi I will unveil a new evolution of these "potraits in absentia."  In these new paintings I am using the "uniforms" that many of us have in our closets -- jeans and white shirts.  These uniforms are ubiquitous in our society, yet they are highly personal.   A pair of jeans or a white shirt is a form of cultural anthropology -- a piece of archeology from our time -- but each garment also retains the very real essence of the person who wears it.

My new series will be shown at Gallerie Citi in Silicon Valley (Burlingame, CA) in the two-person exhibition REAL (which I will share with the extraordinary Willard Dixon), from September 19 -- November 6.  There is an opening reception on September 19 from 5-7pm -- please come if you can!

Here is a peek at one of the new works.  It is a "portrait" of a couple and it illumines their love story and their zest for living.

"Embrace," oil on linen, 24 x 36"

I married my wonderful husband nine years ago this summer.  He has been a joy and a gift to my life in countless ways -- and so has the privilege of honoring our partnership in a marriage.   And now, many of our dearest friends will also have the right and privilege of celebrating their unions in legal marriages.  I believe in the privilege of marriage so deeply that I've created several paintings over the years illustrating marriage in its various forms.  Here are a few of these paintings -- in support and celebration of the institution of marriage.

"Portrait of Sally and Donald"
Oil on Linen
25 x 25"

"Portrait of a Marriage"
Oil on Linen
18 x 24"

"Portrait of a Marriage"
Oil on Linen
12 x 12"

"Portrait of a Modern Family"
Oil on Linen
22 x 28"

I've been reading a monograph on the amazing realist artist Alan Magee.   I love his work and how deeply he reveals the essence of an object.   He writes "the beauty of a thing reveals itself with attention."

I have always felt this way about my own painting.  I relish the long hours of deeply looking at the curve of an object, or the many colors in a shadow.  And with all the hours, days, and weeks of looking, I feel that I get a little closer to the "unseen" that is always present in our lives.
                                          "At the Chelsea Flower Show (Begonia)"
                                           Oil on Linen
                                            20 x 20"
                                           By Elizabeth Barlow

On April 17 we attended the opening night of my father's (Philip Barlow) new exhibition at Phillips Gallery in Salt Lake City.  He keeps getting better and better in his technique and artistry.  So that must mean that 82 is the new 62!  I'm so proud to be his child and to have inherited a small portion of his amazing talent.  Thanks for sharing so much beauty and wonder with the world, Dad!

"Sharing the Real Thing"
by Philip Barlow
16 x 20"
Oil on Canvas 

"Lost and Found"
18 x 24"
Oil on Canvas

"Three Guesses"
16 x 20"
Oil on Canvas

My 81-year-old father, artist Philip Barlow, is my teacher, inspiration and mentor.  He still paints every day, and in April will be featured in a two-person exhibition at Phillips Gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah.   I LOVE this recent painting of his -- titled "Sharing the Real Thing."  It spotlights a great American icon and infuses it with playful romance.  In this 100-year anniversary of Coke, it is so inspiring to see an 81-year-old artist, who continually strives to keep his own work fresh and vibrant, celebrate an iconic part of Americana with a nod to the past and a dose of whimsy and wit.  Here's to getting better with AGE!

"Sharing the Real Thing"
Oil on Canvas
16 x 20"
by Philip Barlow
(courtesy of Phillips Gallery, SLC, UT)

Sometimes dreams do come true -- and one just has for me.  Last year, I was approached by a lovely professional couple in the Bay Area.  They are world travelers and adventurers and also contemporary art collectors.  In addition, they each have a highly cultivated appreciation for exquisitely designed and made shoes.  They asked me to create a "portrait" of them using some of the delectable shoes from their closet.  And here is the "dreams do come true" part -- they gave me carte blanche in terms of composition.  What a gift! I worked on their portrait for many months, and yesterday, along with my art dealer Andra Norris of Gallerie Citi, we presented their portrait to them.  There are two paintings, a diptych, and I titled them "His & Hers."  What a pleasure it was to work with these smart, kind, vibrant, open people -- and it was truly a joy "walking in their shoes" for so many months.  Thank you, dear collectors, for giving this artistic gift to me!

Oil on Linen
30 x 30"
by Elizabeth Barlow

Oil on Linen
30 x 30"
by Elizabeth Barlow

My amazing artist father, Philip Barlow, was a winner in The Artist Magazine's Annual Over 60 Competition (March 2015 issue) -- with his painting "Pooh's Favorite Tales."  In the interview, he shares some wisdom for other artists -- but it is applicable for anyone trying to live a vibrant, engaged, rich life:

"Always paint what excites YOU.   Don't be content with a certain style.  Be sure you keep striving to evolve and change.  It is important to have respect for your talent and hard work -- treat your painting as a business and always strive to be professional in your dealings with galleries and collectors.

Art has been my life.  I have never been far from the magic of creation. I paint almost every day and am working on paintings for a show at one of my galleries in April.  I am always searching for a new direction in creativity and that's what keeps all of us wanting to move on."

Gallerie Citi celebrated the opening of the new exhibition "Awaken" last night.  I am thrilled to have two works in the show -- and to have the show titled after my paintings.  But the real thrill is to have my work shown alongside the Bay Area legends Joan Brown and Elmer Bischoff -- and with my friend Kim Froshin who continues in their expressive artistic footsteps.   It's an honor to be there!

"Awaken I" 
Oil on Linen
9 x 12"
By Elizabeth Barlow

"Awaken II"
Oil on Linen
9 x 12"
By Elizabeth Barlow