White Room: Karen Barbour

September 23–October 29, 2022 White Room

Press Release

White Columns is pleased to present a solo exhibition by the Inverness, CA-based artist Karen Barbour. Barbour’s exhibition comprises a group of fifteen figurative and abstract paintings – many of which employ collaged elements, fourteen painted works on paper, and a single painted sculptural bust. All of the works have come to completion during the past two years, but the majority have gestated over a much longer period of time.

Barbour’s works are often deeply personal, incorporating imagery drawn from dreams, the imagination, childhood memories and family folklore. Informed as much by visionary art and architecture as they are by her unabashed embrace of pattern and decoration, narrative forms and illustrative techniques, Barbour’s resulting paintings are at once deeply felt, acutely observed and profoundly idiosyncratic.

Writing frankly about her approach and process Barbour has said: I have been working on most of these pieces for years, adding to them constantly. I write down thoughts and words – and things that I have read – in notebooks and I sometimes make paintings from them. I have visions where images pop into my head on pretty much a daily basis and I run to make a drawing of them. I constantly see stuff. If I sit down, my eyes start to make patterns and then pictures. If I look at the sky or the floor or a counter or tiles, images start to take shape and it’s very vivid and interesting to me. I immediately draw or paint these images because I tend to forget things very quickly and otherwise, they would disappear. The oil paintings too – they go through a lot of changes. The bigger ones pretty much started out as stacks of ‘parts’, to make a body or whatever, but over many years I would go back into them, continuously adding what was interesting to me at any given moment. It’s exciting to paint over something that already exists. This last year and a half I have started having more piercing visions and I discovered that I have temporal lobe seizures. (It’s okay now and not serious.) Sitting with my 102-year-old father in his last years as he hallucinated and saw people and things on the ceiling and in the walls, feels parallel to what has been happening to me.”

Karen Barbour (b. 1956), lives and works in Inverness, CA. She received a BA at UC Davis and an MFA in Film from San Francisco’s Art Institute. Barbour has worked as an author and an illustrator, and over the past twenty years her work has been included in exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, among other places. White Columns first encountered Barbour’s work when she submitted it for consideration for White Columns’ online Artist Registry. In February 2022 White Columns showed Barbour’s work in a two-artist presentation alongside that of her daughter Daisy May Sheff at the Felix art fair in Los Angeles.

To learn more: info@whitecolumns.org