Barbara F. Warden
F I R E T A L K A R T S
CURATOR STATEMENT - Ryan Grover, Biggs Museum of American Art
Having enjoyed successful occupations as a contemporary fiber artist, arts instructor, and freelance photographer, Barbara Warden returned to her art school interest in what she describes as the “immediacy of drawing” and devoted the full calendar year of 2015 to create visual representations of the concept of time. Each day, she sat in front of a blank sheet of paper and began her day’s exercise with a single gesture by hand across the page. From that unique daily gesture, a technique associated with expressionist art forms of the 20th century, entire configurations of abstract forms were layered and scraped away using many tools - graphite, color pencil, charcoal, paint, crayon, oil pastel and machine stitches. Each drawing session could last between 3 hours and 8 hours. She challenged herself to draw at least one composition every day. This ritual of disciplined daily practice, resulted in a large body of more than 350 individual drawings.
Warden has been working with themes of time for several years. Invited into a group exhibition at the Biggs Museum in 2012, she used the photographic notion of capturing a quick “moment in time” to dictate the pace and complexity of her abstract drawings. Barbara broke the picture plane of her work into grids to dedicate prescribed periods of time to each section. Each moment was memorialized in a sparing number of strokes across her compositions.
In 2015, these reflections on time shifted to her observations of impermanence. As she worked through the year, she realized that her drawings were largely examinations of natural elements such as bone, ice, stone and wind that demonstrated the visual effect of time. Ice melts, bone decays, stone erodes and wind dissipates. Although highly abstracted to emphasize line, depth, texture and especially the rhythmic repetition of individual forms much of Barbara’s drawings reflect landscape, still life and figurative studies. Barbara’s explorations of elements through time were not linear as she often returned to her artistic subjects, each time discovering new effects she wished to record. Through her examinations of the corporeal, the artist discovered new conceptual themes that tied importantly to her notion of time including chance, fragments and memory. While each drawing is a complete work, and not preparation to a finale, some works are more complex evocations of each of the artist’s individual elements and are often larger and framed.
While few of Barbara’s works are individually titled with anything more complex than an inventory number, the artist has discovered literary quotations that offer a relevant context for her artistic themes and groupings. These phrases often display a very human subtext of mortality and interconnectedness. In this light, Barbara’s works, just like her artistic themes, become deeply personal metaphors for the effect of time upon the body, the soul and its environment.