In the Studio with Lisa Marie Barber

In January, Curator of Exhibitions Lena Vigna interviewed RAM Artist Fellowship Recipient Lisa Marie Barber.

Originally from Tucson, AZ, Barber received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Currently Associate Professor and Art Department Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, she has been teaching there since the fall of 2003.

Barber works with many media, favoring clay and fiber for her larger compositions. She describes her work—layers of information, objects, and figures—as “full of imagery from city life with objects densely arranged as if around an improvised, decorated shrine.”

When asked what she liked about clay as a medium, Barber said that it was initially a substitute for sewing and working with fibers. She found herself wanting to work with her hands but needing to find a different outlet. Barber likes how she is able to shape clay and that she can give it form through separating and cutting, and then rebuilding. She describes the material as “magical.”

Clay may have a long history of use, but for her it doesn’t have the same “baggage” as other media, such as paint. It is, in her words, “versatile, accessible and democratic.” Barber makes it a practice to use recycled clay—gathering it from the studio and reconstituting it. This not only adds layers of meaning but also contributes to a more sustainable working method.

Lena Vigna: How often are you in your studio?

Lisa Marie Barber: It used to be no less than 35 hours per week. Since taking on the role of art department chair at UW-Parkside, it is closer to 15-25 hours per week. It is really a studio-based process across many media (she creates quilts, paintings, and drawings in addition to sculptural ceramic installations; she has also made her own clothing). There is experimentation and “doodling” with the clay—again, it is happening in the studio.

Vigna: What inspires you most these days? Also, what do you go to bed thinking about most nights?

Barber: I’m inspired by gardens and flowers—the “stuff” that makes up everyday life and a positive outlook on what life offers. This “stuff” also becomes artifacts—reflections of lives lived. I feel “blessed” and want to create work that reflects the positivity I have for life in general. Life offers things that are both rich and layered (reflected metaphorically in her work), but also simple.