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Barbara Harshman

Making art -- the work of creating images -- is compelling and gratifying.

For me, it has always been necessary to maintain the integrity of the image while making it distinctly mine. I do not think that my work is at all easy, but I do think the work is smart, funny, and beautiful.

Any art product, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, or a photograph, is evidence of each day's decisions in the studio. While working in my studio, I build a relationship with the painting. It becomes an ongoing conversation that is ever-present. In the studio or not, the painting is always there and the conversation is perpetual.

Because art is by nature reciprocal, requiring both the image and the viewer, looking at art is never casual or lazy. Indeed for me, it has always been a very active, moving, joyful activity. Ultimately, I hope that when a viewer establishes a relationship with my work, it is intellectually engaging, fun, and joyful as well.

All of my work, whether a portrait or a still life, involves transforming a photographic resource into an active painting. Capturing the sensation of movement (liquids pouring from one container into another or hands preparing food) from static photographs has always been central to my work. For this reason, a series of images or progressions of images has always been compelling because inherent in the multiple is activity that transcends the static nature of the original image. It is capturing a process; something in the making. It is art reflecting the making of art. It is in itself a visual statement punctuating what it is at its essence -- all about process. The multiple images of artists as diverse as Georges de La Tour, Claude Monet, and Andy Warhol are intriguing because the paintings lure the viewer in to consider the same object again and again. Multiples of the same image or progressions of the same or similar images force the viewer to see in a way that is distinctly different than viewing a singular representation.

With respect to portraits, artists as diverse as Lucian Freud, Alice Neel, David Hockney, and Chuck Close have always been exciting to me. Self-portraits and the images of friends and family are at once personal and universal. Each artist's method is distinct, but the challenge of representing individual persons and personalities is the same.

I have been making paintings since I was six years old whenI took my first art lesson at the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Trying to figure it all out, how to make it work, which visual metaphors best work for any particular subject -- this process is my work. It is the process I use to make fixed images transfixing to the viewer.

Decorning the Cob
Still Life with Grapes and
Man Holding Tomatoes
Diptych Still Life with Asparagus
Diptych Still Life with Mortar




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For an article about Barbara