Artists Profile: Barbara Bowman Mayer May/June 2016

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Portrait Painter, Sculptor and Artist in Various Media
Age: Old enough to be called “Dear,” sometimes “Honey,” and even occasionally “Would you like some help with that?”

How did your interest in art begin?
At age five and later in school, drawing my classmates in my notebooks and textbooks. Growing up, my mother encouraged my sister Jan and me in the arts. We moved every two years as my dad’s company was building bridges and dams, and everywhere we moved, Mom looked up the local private art and piano teachers for us. I quit piano when [my teacher]here in Lynchburg threatened just one more recital.

How has your technique changed over time?
I experiment, experiment, experiment. Once when I got a “Best in Show,” the judge said, “I gave it to you because you are
not afraid of variety.”

Should an artist be open to change?
Whatever an artist looks at will imbed, so it’s good to be aware of that. It will stick. Within those parameters, never be afraid to stretch out to extend your limits either.

Whose art were you influenced by?
Primarily the impressionists and abstract expressionists, but there is always the unequaled immortal Rembrandt. The world stands in awe of his chiaroscuro lights and shadows but should also recognize his divine inspiration. A movie about Rembrandt’s life and paintings included Rembrandt’s remarkable Christian faith and its effect on his work.

What’s your history here in Lynchburg?
We moved to Lynchburg when I was 14. I was a member of the first graduating class of the “New E.C. Glass High School in 1954,” which is why I did the paintings for the Glass Athletic Memorial Lobby to commemorate the basketball champions of 1954, many of whom are still among our many class survivors who are still active and have not changed all that much, and who meet monthly at Charley’s Restaurant for lunch.

Where and how did you formally study art?
E. C. Glass High School; Sullins under Alvin Sella; earned a BFA at University of Georgia under Lamar Dodd; The Art Students League of New York with David Lafel and under Frank Mason… many sculptors at the Loveland Academy in Loveland, Co. over 10 years, and also under several directors of the Lynchburg Center for the Arts here in Lynchburg.

When did you begin doing commissioned pieces?
Since around the age of 19. I have always loved painting and drawing people and animals. Especially grandchildren, because they are being painted out of the great love for them of their grandparents. I feel that, and I think it shows in the paintings.

What do you enjoy about that process?
I enjoy drawing and painting people because I seem to be able to capture a physical likeness, but also something inside the subject I think. For portraits, I try to illustrate my subjects the way they would like to be remembered, or how my clients would like to remember their intended subjects at a given time, especially grandchildren who change so rapidly. I love doing grandchildren!

What are some of the more memorable pieces you’ve worked on for clients?
Some of my more memorable paintings include the large oil painting of the famous young cellist Zuill Bailey with his Goffriller cello; we were fortunate to have had him here in Lynchburg twice. I was also honored to have been commissioned to paint two Poplar Forest patronesses. Fred [my husband]and I also made [the]two gold leaf ornamental frames.

But I [also]love doing landscapes and animals, so I think my favorite lately will be the life-sized painting-in-progress of Lynchburg City Police Chief Raul Diaz with a German Shepherd. Another favorite is the former JP Hughes, a large oil painting, which is more of a portrait type, but with an interesting expression!

I also enjoyed doing a 12-foot-wall composite recently for E.C Glass High School’s athletic department of the 1954 first graduating class championship basketball team, for which Fred spent six weeks building the framework and structure for the combining of my many separate paintings and drawings of that basketball team (that was volunteer work).

How did you become involved in both painting and sculpture? How are they similar? How do they differ?
One translates visually, and the other is both visual and tactile. I really began sculpture late, and felt reborn, after a fashion. I have always enjoyed trying new media, such as sculpture, glass, resin, clay etc. Some mediums have proved to be fugitive though [meaning they crack or turn yellow]! Fortunately, varnishes and some media have improved (hopefully) with newer, lightfast qualities.

Where do you find inspiration?
Reality plus imagination. Artists paint what they find inspiring, and translate it in the best way we can for others to enjoy. I cannot look at God’s beautiful earth without praising Him every day. Painting can be a praise to God or the opposite. I choose to praise Him, and I thank Him for the talent to do so.

How would you describe your personal philosophy of art?
I coined the term “Contemporary Impressionist” because there are few hard edges in my work except sometimes when I intentionally add some line drawing for effect. I prefer to suggest, and let the viewer fill in the blanks. I think that way art and the viewer can identify at some level within the painting because part of the viewer is filling in the blanks. With both painting and sculpting, the artist is always adding and subtracting. I sometimes say that creating art is making one correction after another. Put something down, then do something with it.

Paintings are sometimes like novels—the characters get away from you and assert themselves! Artists either paint to make things more real, more beautiful or to express something for others to see. Often art is used as a means of [expressing]“in your face,” “notice me,” or “This is art—accept this.” Remember the expression “Art will tell”—what it tells about is the artist. But the medium can also produce a vivid statement.

What’s the role of art in a community?
Whatever its role, art will reflect the culture of a community. It’s a question of whose and what.

What do you recommend for someone interested in studying art?
I would recommend good art videos. Today it is not necessary to spend thousands [of dollars]to attend far-flung workshops. Many excellent artists have donated their time, and gone to the trouble, to create wonderful instructional videos available at the push of a button. I would also encourage seriously studying anatomy in live anatomy classes. We have the Academy Center of the Arts here, as well as the Lynchburg Art Club, Riverviews and Magnolias etc.— thanks to Lynchburg’s interest in promoting the arts, for which, all of us who benefit from their generosity, are appreciative.

What are some memories you have of various shows you have done?
When I had a one-woman show at the Lynchburg Academy in 2011, I had more than 70 paintings and sculptures, but when I was painting for it, the subject matter initially was featuring musicians and their instruments. . . such as Zuill Bailey with his Matteo Goffriller cello, and some other paintings of musicians, but also a large painting in red of Randy Riley and his group. [I also recall] a non-musician portrait of English professor Elsie Bock at her Lynchburg College office computer, writing a novel. That painting won a “Best in Show.”

Any closing thoughts?
The purpose of art is to be seen. I hope my paintings are more interesting than 1,000 words about me or my opinions. . .also artists should be secure enough in their own style to appreciate the uniqueness of other artists and enjoy each others’ art. Artists sometimes need to lighten up. I am delighted that Lynchburg Living would choose some of my artwork to feature in their latest issue. Thank you so much.

How can readers get in touch with you? Call (434) 610-1733.

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