Our January Featured Artist: Barbara Evan

St. Paul painter Barbara Evan’s works in oil are composed with intuitive line and form and are typically rich with color. The artist holds degrees in English from the University of South Dakota and in Studio Arts from the University of Minnesota. She maintains a studio in the Lowertown neighborhood and is a regular participant in the twice-yearly St. Paul Art Crawl: her images are regularly selected by jury to promote the event. Barbara is a member of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (W.A.R.M).

About her current work, the Barbara states, "Before starting a painting I set myself an elusive problem, like seeing if three unlikely colors can work together, or seeing how many layers I can build up and still see through to the first one, or finding out what a pile of lumpy stone-shapes would look like, or all of these at once. I work in terms of time, watching intently, feeling and seeing the different effects of deliberation and speed. If I hit a dead end I might wipe out large sections, then use what remains as a basis for the next version. Gradually – and sometimes after dozens of layers and wipeouts – it turns into something: it has a certain combination of formal balance and emotional content that reflects an inner, inarticulate part of me. My work is perhaps a kind of inchoate writing."

Some of the paintings on view throughout January at The Grand Hand, along with the artist's notes on the work, include:

Garden (pictured above): I deliberately set out to make something beautiful, which usually means ending up with a mess. That happened this time too, but I kept at it until this painting emerged. I love how a few faint lines (like the barely noticeable pink streaks along the bottom) are terribly important, and some of the bold strokes, which could have ruined the whole thing, fit right in.

Straightened Curly Leaf
is the gradual abstraction of a curly leaf Aralia frond. There are several other versions. One was full of brilliant colors (Bold Curly Leaf). Then I painted over it with beige (Muted Curly Leaf) and, surprisingly, that made it glow. This one is more controlled, hence the name, but it has its own kind of mystery.

Silly Girl
is based on a tiny sketch from several years ago. Stone shapes or perhaps crystals float in the air, with a delicate figure holding things in place. They are stones or heavy clouds, ponderous but suspended in a field of bright, cheerful washes of color. Silly girl is strong enough to not worry about appearing silly.

Untitled started out as a black, gray and white boulder on a solid white background. People who didn’t expect to like it, liked it. It looked heavy and real, even though it wasn’t much more than a line drawing. But it sat there for a couple of years, too tempting to leave alone, so I tried adding paint. After several disasters, a wipeout, and finally several layers of insubstantial circles, it turned into this painting. A black circle sits in the center, against all the rules, right where it belongs.

Entrance was difficult. They are almost always difficult, but this one more so because I was trying to show language emerging from layers of shapes that alluded to letters or symbols. I couldn’t do it. It was becoming a doodle, and doodles don’t count as art. Finally, I just let it be a really intricate doodle that’s also a kind of puzzle or a snarl. It’s kind of a free-form mandala, with simultaneous agitation and stillness. Entrance has two meanings, of course.

Most of Barbara’s paintings have a documented history because she takes photographs along the way. Earlier versions of her works may be available as small booklets or prints.