Coming Home-Painting BY Barbara Stahl

Opens September 1

Barbara (Burnett) Stahl, Buffet, 2015, 48 in X 60 in, Oil on canvas

Beginning on September 1 during the First Friday Art Walk, the Art Space Vincennes exhibition  Coming Home: Paintings by Barbara Stahl opens in time for Lincoln High School’s Home Coming events.

Barbara (Burnett) Stahl was born in Vincennes and lived her formative younger years there. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1976 and attended Vincennes University.  As one of the first University art majors we met when we moved to Indiana from Texas in1977, Barbara Stahl was memorable for her vigor and fluid creativity.

Stahl came into the ASV gallery the weekend of the 2014 Lincoln High School Homecoming.  We were delighted to reconnect with her after some 38 years, sharing our histories of art making and life in general.  We learned that in her time away from Vincennes, Stahl’s university study and teaching experiences were followed by extensive and thoughtful work in the fields of commercial and public art as she simultaneously pursued her personal creative directions.  Consequently, she developed insights about the ways visual arts can communicate, and about the kinds of visual ideas that resonate with people who view her work in varied contexts.

Stahl is well known in Indianapolis for her commercial work, especially the painting of the Indianapolis Pacers schedule on the outside wall of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  She has painted the schedule every year since 1999.   She also painted smaller murals inside the building and has done many other wall paintings in public spaces in Indianapolis.

Recently Stahl has begun showing her body of fine art paintings. She uses a mixture of muted colors, like those found in nature, and intense colors.  She divides her compositions with irregular grid patterns.   Over time, the paintings have become increasingly minimal, letting go of obvious connections with landscape.

One might be tempted to compare the evolution of this work to that of Piet Mondrian, leader of the De Stijl movement during the 1930s.  Mondrian and his followers searched for pure harmonic forms as a visual, spiritual quest for a peaceful world order. Mondrian developed delicate reductive studies of trees that exhibited subtle equilibriums of form and space. While Mondrian was precisely measured and calculated, Barbara developed complex Fauve-like color choices,  as her hues became more pure and saturated.  Her studies of psychological and philosophical theory regarding notions of consciousness and perception provide the premise for these works and place them within the long multi-directional continuum of art history. Variegated forms and surfaces, vigorous paint application, sketchy, aggressive and bold grid-lines suggest the way a tree grows a branch and age distorts and decomposes it.  Mondrian was a formalist and an idealist; Stahl, by contrast, is conceptually a realist and as an artist supporting herself with her art in an urban society, a survivalist and an expressionist.

This year Barbara’s fine art has received significant recognition in Indianapolis.  In April she was awarded a 2017 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship through the Arts Council of Indianapolis.  These competitive fellowships allow artists to “reinvigorate their work by renewing and refreshing their creativity.”  Also from April through July, the Indiana State Library exhibited her Skybridge Series of paintings, and the library acquired one of the pieces, Consciousness Rising.  Barbara is the first woman and the first abstract painter to be included in the library’s art collection. The library is assembling a permanent archive of her art education and practices for the use of future researchers.  The remaining pieces from the Skybridge Series will appear throughout the fall at Art Space Vincennes.  Once Barbara’s work is archived in the library, it is likely that the value of her present and future work will increase.

Opens September 1 for First Friday Art Walk (5 – 8 pm)

Open hours: T-F Noon – 5; Sat 11 am – 2 pm

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