The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus


Artist Talk: Deborah Barr at the Carnegie Arts Center


Deborah Barr discusses her painting, “Tell me Again,” which is oil on Bristol board. (Signal Photo/Vipanpreet Kaur)

On February 17, the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock hosted an artist talk with Deborah Barr. 

Deborah Barr was born in Wichita, Kansas on February 7, 1959. She holds a Master of Fine Art Degree from San Jose State University and a B.A. from Mills College where she studied with Hung Liu, a Chinese-American contemporary artist.  

Barr has taught art at Colombia College, Merced College, San Jose State University, and is a full time Professor at Modesto Junior College. She teaches Beginning Painting, Advanced Painting, Basic Drawing, Figure Drawing, Art Appreciation and Color & Design.

Barr has held exhibitions of her work in the Inited States, Colombia, South America, Nairobi, Africa and Russia. She has won a number of awards for her work, including the American Business Women’s Association National Achievement Award. She also won a scholarship to study at The National Academy of Art and Design to study mural making and has completed murals at the MJC Performing Arts Center and Kaiser Hospital.

She explained that every piece of art she creates has a story behind it.

“My intention in my creative process is to catch attention by creating a visual dialog that the viewer can intimately identify with,” Barr said.

As a professor at Modesto Junior College, Barr used to paint in front of the entire class and let her students decide what they think about her painting.

One of her students was Isabella Lopez, who is currently a Studio Art major at Stanislaus State. Lopez explained how she remembers being in her class and seeing her working on one of the paintings that was actually featured in the gallery.

“That was my first glimpse of her work. I really loved watching her work on it and progress every day,” Lopez said.

Barr spoke about how she got all the lenses that are featured when she visited her optometrists. She was curious to know what the optometrists do when they get scratches and when they said that they just throw them away, she asked them to give it to her. These antique lenses are over 100 years old. She brought all these lenses to her class and started painting abstract things on them in different colors. Later on, she learned that these lenses are expensive as they cost about $400 per set. 

“The challenge for me as an artist is to go beyond the internal barriers that separate us from each other.  What I want is for my art to act as a reflection of self in such a way that it awakens a glimmer of understanding and compassion both for the child within and by extension for children everywhere,” Barr said. “I approach my work not as a politician or as a social worker, but only as a mother and an artist interested in drawing attention to children’s issues.”

Most of her drawings are also inspired by people she has seen on TV or met them in person.

In the above paintings, all of the women have dreadlocks. Barr explained how these deadlocks represent a timeless connection to the past through cultures and spiritual practice beyond race, ideology or gender. 

“Dreads are popular and yet often seen as negative in American culture, but around the world, young women and men adorn them in colors, decorate them with beads and have extensions added to their own hair. My challenge as an artist has been to make art that is aesthetically beautiful and yet socially meaningful. My challenge as an activist has been to make a positive difference for children,” Barr said.

Barr also always tries to look for things, especially in nature, where she can paint on them. In this instance, she decided to draw on a tree trunk slice, which she found in someone’s yard. 

Another one of her installations she had in the gallery was created through actual leaves from trees. Barr explained how she took all the wet leaves, which she saw on ground and decided to collect them, and painted them with different color. 

“Art is another means of helping people see and better understand the dynamics of our world and how human consciousness impacts it at every level,” Barr said.

You can learn more about Deborah Barr by heading to her official website.

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Artist Talk: Deborah Barr at the Carnegie Arts Center