Saturday, September 1, 2007

Montgomery County Women's Journal

Arts Feature: Visual Echoes
August/September 2007

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Barbara Mowery, and I am originally from Ashton, in Montgomery County, MD. My husband and I moved to Ocean City, MD in 2005. Back when I was only a tourist in Ocean City, I never realized that Delmarva has a rich and thriving arts community. Now I am a member of the Worcester County Arts Council (WCAC) and the Art League of Ocean City (ALOC). Living in the center of it, my dance card could be full every week of the year: opening receptions for shows at the art leagues and private galleries, arts walks in Snow Hill, Berlin and Chincoteague, and annual events like Arts Night at Seacrets and the Arts Alive Festival…the list goes on and on. Yes, I am completely spoiled.

What is the first thing you can remember making by hand?
My fondest childhood memories involve art supplies: tempera paints, paper mache, glue, Play-Doh, and building blocks. But I mainly remember using them outside on the porch or in the yard. My mom definitely encouraged my creativity but was not a fan of art materials being tracked through the house. Now that I own carpet, I see her point.

What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I love repeating shapes, so I fill my paintings with visual echoes. This is probably why I’m totally inspired by vintage quilt patterns at the moment. The Library of Congress has a fantastic online collection of photos of quilters and their work. I am fascinated by the care that goes into hand quilting and the toll it takes on the hands lifelong quilters. But specific inspiration sources come and go for me. More generally I find my ideas in literature, art history, mythology, photos of family and friends, and the local landscape. And although I’m told, "Puns are the lowest form of humor," I cannot resist infusing my artwork with exaggeration, wordplay, and terrible visual puns.

What are your favorite art materials to work with?
Acrylic paints are my number one favorite material. They are the chameleons of the paint world, able to behave with the transparency of watercolor or the depth of oil, depending upon the technique the artist chooses. And yet they have a personality all their own. I love all the options that acrylics offer but tend to stick with traditional painting techniques. I also enjoy making collages out of found paper and making linoleum block prints.

Could you tell us about your paintings?
I am always asked to describe my paintings, and I always stumble on answering. If I could talk a painting, then wouldn’t I be better off as a poet? My paintings are representational, but the images are simplified. I reduce the subject to its essential elements: line, color, form, and narrative. For example, a shadow may be represented as a thick, expressive line, and an emotion may become a strong color. The finished product may look like a page from a grownup’s coloring book, but the painting process is pretty labor-intensive.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
By day I am a paralegal. By night I teach drawing and acrylic painting classes to adults in Berlin at the WCAC and in Ocean City at the ALOC. It’s challenging and fun to come up with art exercises that push my students out of their comfort zone and get them thinking about their artwork in different ways. Most of all I want my students to learn to trust themselves artistically. I post upcoming class dates and details in the News section of my website,

What shows or events are upcoming for you?
I am so excited to be participating in the 2007 Arts on the River Public Art Project! Arts on the River has invited artists, designers, architects, schools and other community groups from the Snow Hill, MD area to create "quilt squares" for this year's Public Art Project. My painting "Barn Raising" will be part of an assemblage of 22 artworks combined into a large "quilt." The quilt will be displayed at the Nassawango Outdoor Quilt Show at Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum on September 22 and 23, 2007. All of the artworks will be sold at a fundraiser on September 22, 2007, and the proceeds will benefit community art programs.

Photographs provided by the artist.

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