Elizabeth Barlow [NRA 2008]

First name: Elizabeth ;
Middle name:
Last name:
Barlow ;

Member: artist member ; 



As a contemporary still life artist, my work is infused with a life-long love of portraiture. Rather than painting a face or body, I use the symbolism of objects — organic or man-made — to explore the poetry of our lives and world. By focusing on objects and our relationship to them, I present a fresh vantage point from which to consider identity, place, time and memory. A beloved personal object retains the essence of the person who chose it, and I believe that these items have the power to contain, as well as reveal, the very shape of our lives.

For my Portraits in Absentia paintings, I select objects that symbolize complex and perhaps contradictory aspects of my subjects’ inner selves and capture them in compositional arrangements to tell a story. Using color, light and shadow, I amplify these seemingly mundane items into a work of art that reveals truths about the personal journeys of their owners.

When my husband and I moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 2016, a new story line emerged in my work. Surrounded by the trees and flowers reminiscent of my childhood, I began creating portraits for a new series: Flora Portraits. As I begin a project in this body of work, I visit a site and collect armloads of blossoms, vines, leaves and branches. Later, in my studio, I create a composition that celebrates the essence of a garden or gardener, and at the same time highlighting the bittersweet impermanence of life.

My Still Life series is a meditation on the rewards of looking deeply. To understand the true essence of something, I must slow down, look and linger. My Still Life painting practice is an act of devotion, a willingness to be fully awake and awakened. The reward is to perceive the transcendent “is-ness” beneath the surface of all things.

In all of my work, Portraits in Absentia, Flora Portraits, and Still Life, each painting begins with reference photos I take and then edit on my computer. Next comes a pencil drawing on a custom-made oil-primed linen canvas, followed by an alla prima layer of oil color. This is followed by many glazed layers to develop the richness, depth, subtlety and luminosity that I seek. With each painting, I aim for more than an accurate representation of form — I strive to reveal the spirit and underlying meaning in an object that is always present — if we will only take the time to look.

My work is deeply inspired by the work of my late artist father, Philip Barlow, and by my heroes/heroines in painting, literature and music who inform my work profoundly. The lessons they taught, and continue to teach me, can be found as echoes in each brushstroke of my paintings.






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Record birth date:
December 23, 2019

Last updated: January 19, 2023 at 21:27 pm