/ The Houston Guide
Houston — By Christina Uticone on August 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Filed under: Art, contemporary, exhibit, top-feature

Barbara Jones: Her Life in Paint

painting, artist, exhibitionWhat I paint has changed over the years.  The reason I paint has never wavered. – Barbara Jones, undated artist statement.

Let me start by saying this: I am not an art critic, nor am I an artist.  Never a particularly good student in art class, my “portfolio” consists largely of lopsided flowers, misshapen bowls of fruit, and disfigured humans with disproportionately large hands.

I can respond to art, however, and my most recent response was vis-á-vis the canvases of the late Houston artist Barbara Jones.  On a recent trip to the Art Car Museum, one intended to scratch the curious itch of my ten-year-old nephew (“What’s an ART CAR?!”), we stumbled upon a beautiful collection of her work that I found deeply moving.

Visceral is the way I would describe not just my reaction, but the paintings themselves.  Not in a gut-wrenching way, or a painful way – just the opposite in fact.  Quietly joyful, Barbara Jones painted snapshots of her own life, capturing moments of happiness, contentment, and ease with her family and friends.  Many of her works are self-portraits; she dances, works in the kitchen, lounges on her bed, and sits alone in her office, living her life through paint, and through her memory of these simplest of times.

The Wildflower Truck

Of course, the knowledge that Barbara had recently passed away, and the affection that the Houston art community has for her (and all of their artists, really) made viewing the exhibit all the more poignant.  The context in which I was viewing her work obviously affected my perceptions of it, and reactions to it.  I reviewed our photos from the May 2010 Art Car Parade and found a photo of her famous art car creation, the “Wildflower Truck”, that now resides at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.  Her style resonated with me even then, as I took several of the car and several more of the flower detail with the zoom.

Art can be so intimidating; some artists, I think, intend to intimidate.  But Barbara’s paintings invite the viewer into her life; they embrace the viewer with bright colors and positive energy.  Some of her work is political, and politics are not something we all agree on, to be sure.  But can’t we all agree on how wonderful it is to cut fresh flowers from our yards?  Can’t we all agree on the comfort and humor provided by the dog lying under the table at our feet?  Can’t we all agree that landscapes are beautiful and deserve to be recorded for posterity?  Barbara saw the world around her and then painted it – with affection and with purpose.  Her paintings made me hopeful, wistful, and grateful.  They reflect and radiate a full life, and a beautiful spirit threads them all together as cohesively as any theme or color palette could.  When I left the museum after viewing the exhibit, I had to blink away more than bright sunlight.

Before leaving that day the wonderful Alicia Duplan, a museum volunteer I’ve had the good fortune to run into on several occasions, provided me with a book of Barbara Jones’ art that was put together by the Art Car Museum and Barbara’s friends. In addition to reprints of her work, it contains remembrances by her husband, mother, friends, and fellow artists, as well as statements from the artist such as the one quoted in the introduction.  I have spent several hours reading and re-reading the tributes written about her, and thumbing through the pages and pages of prints.  I was often reminded of friends and loved ones I lost too soon, but always my thoughts turned to small moments of my own life that pleased me to recall: an extra-fun walk with my dog, Sandy, skiing alone during the scant three hours of sunlight that December in Alaska affords, and hiking with my husband in Glacier National Park.  These small snapshots of my own life make these words, also from Barbara Jones’ artist statement, resonate more each time I read them:

Pay attention to your edges.

If you pay attention to your edges you aren’t likely to miss anything in between.

Close-up of "Wildflower Truck" flowers.

You can view the “Barbara Jones: Her Life In Paint” exhibition at the Art Car Museum through October 8, 2010.  The museum is located at 140 Heights Blvd. (map).  Their hours of operation are Wednesday-Sunday, 11 AM – 6 PM.  Admission is free.

Photo credit: SXC (1); Photos 2 & 3 from the personal collection of Christina Uticone and Joshua Payne.

Related places:
  1. A
    Art Car Museum
    140 Heights Boulevard, Houston, TX, 77007, USA
    View Details and Book
Tags: Art, contemporary, exhibit, top-feature

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