The Lionheart Five: An Interview with Barbara Owen

The Lionheart Gallery
Apr 6, 2017 8:05PM

Five questions we ask every artist.

Photo Credit: Barbara Owen

1. Name one of your most defining moments as an artist.  

BO: In the spring of 2000 I was at a silent residency in California for 2 months.   At the time I was painting big abstract oils on canvas and because of the distance, and the problem of bringing works back to Brooklyn, I planned to write and to work small,  on paper and in sketches. I already had a dedicated practice and a solid body of work.  But being there (quietly alone) resulted in a dramatic shift in my work.  I came back to New York and started the Bloom paintings.   I like to say that in this shift, I isolated and extracted specific organic shapes from the layers of abstraction I had been painting up to that point.  I blew these shapes up and  refined them through drawing.  Since then the Blooms have evolved but continue to influence everything that I make.

Ink Blooms Red Dance, Barbara Owen

2. Do you collect anything?  

BO: If this makes sense I collect photographs that I take and think of as connections between the work I am doing “inside” the studio, and the experiences I document - via photographs - on the “outside” and visa versa. They are not evident in the work right now but they keep me thinking in a way that is important to my development.  I also collect beautiful trash. I have an early piece called “Walking Aelias”.  It took place over a year while living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Aelias was my dog and  everyday while walking her I would pick up discarded or lost things and return to my studio to hang them directly on the wall – over the year it grew into a huge cloud of flattened bottle caps, springs, keys, gears, a tap dancers heel tap; on the wall it no longer looked like trash.  I continue to pick up and have many fantastic specimens. Recently I rehung a  section of it in our stairwell at home. It gives me inspiration on a daily basis.

Walking Aelias, Walking Aelias (detail), Barbara Owen

3. If you could choose anyone—and we mean anyone—whom would you pick as a mentor?  

BO: I would love to have a woman artist as a mentor.  A few come to mind: Sheila Hicks, Lynda Benglis, Yoko Ono….

4. What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?  

BO: All of my paper work is cut by hand so at the moment the most indispensible tool is my trusty Xacto knife with the orange plastic grippy handle! I would be nowhere with out it! I use it everyday, all day and I am very skilled with it – it has become an extension of my hand.  A friend suggested that I seek sponsorship from the company since I use so many blades.

Studio Shots, Photo Credit: Barbara Owen

5. Tell us about one piece of art in this exhibition. You might describe your inspiration, your process, the title, what the work signifies to you…  

BO: Black Sumac is one of those special pieces that happened on its own.  It had to be in the world, I had little control – I still look at it and wonder where it came from.  It has so many things that appeal to me, there is the pop of orange on the black, it is composed of many small shapes making up a big shape, and is roughly my size.

Black Sumac (Installation Shot), Barbara Owen

The Lionheart Gallery