11 For 11: Barbara Owen

Spinning Orange I, 2016, acrylic and ink on cut paper, 41” x 21”.


Suzanne Volmer

For Barbara Owen, whose threedimensional paper drawings have a vibrant energy and elegance, 2016 was a productive year in terms of exhibitions, and 2017 promises to be a banner year as well. She is an artist hitting her stride.

During a recent studio visit, Owen displayed an assortment of huge paper snarls that read as luxuriant bursts of glowing color, commanding attention like a tractor beam. One of these 3-D drawings was bright yellow and glowed from within, luminous like a sun; another was creamy opalescent, and a third seemed vermillion. These giant skein-like forms were pinned into place to form a wall-hung constellation accompanied by smaller black and midnight blue iterations. The particular sightline expressed an exuberance of three-dimensional line.

Another exciting place my eyes settled during this studio visit happened to be on a stack of collage drawings piled in layers across the entire expanse of Owen’s work table. Arranged one on top of another, the flattened drawings seemed to convey other, different linear stories. The sheer quantity of these smaller collages nuanced the sense of my overall first impression.

Unmistakably, Owen’s work connects with the lineage of Henri Matisse’s “cut-out” period when he shaped pre-painted paper with scissors, creating large works that today are admired for their lyricism of line and gesture. Regarded as the father of Color-aid, Matisse’s idea to paint sheets of paper with color led to the development of the color-coded, silk-screened paper that artists use for convenience and control. He liked using painted expanses of paper to facilitate his vision. Color-aid just realized the commercial potential and developed into a product.

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