This month’s featured artist is Barbara Harman, who was my mentor for two years (2005-2006) as part of the WARM Mentor program. Barbara works in painting, printmaking, book arts and fiber arts. I was drawn to her as a mentor because of her wide-ranging facility with materials and processes, her appreciation of hand stitching and other fiber arts, and because she finds her primary inspiration in natural forms, as I do.
Here is an excerpt from Barbara’s artist statement.
“The longer I have lived in this part of the Midwest, the more my art has become about the abundance and compressed view of the natural landscape. When I go to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge south of Minneapolis, there are few places where it is possible to see for any distance. Over the years, I have become increasingly focused on what lies between me and that distance. My most recent works dispense with any attempt to separate intervening elements. I am engaged in reassembling my experience of layer upon layer: trees, leaves, grasses, water, birds, flowers, seeds. I want to reflect the crowded abundance of what I see, at the same time answer what I experience as a demand to pay closer attention. I often isolate something in a piece to comply with that demand. I’ll bring it forward, enlarge a small detail, incorporate text, add stitching or beadwork. I want to draw my viewers in, past what is transparent to what may be hidden or overlooked. I want my work to reveal the things that may be only imagined: the bird singing high in the canopy, the roots of a tree buried under earth and snow.
While working together in 2005-06, Barbara and I collaborated on the piece shown below. Our collaboration started with small pieces of hand dyed fabric, which we printed, painted and embellished, and passed back and forth a couple of times, each adding to what the other had done. Eventually we had a stack of pieces, which we decided to arrange quilt-like on a dyed, stenciled and hand-quilted background. When I look at this piece I see windows showing glimpses of the places we walked through; I also recall bits of conversations we had as we worked together over the two years.
Here is a close-up of one of the rectangles. Barbara added the beading to this piece — click the image to zoom in.