Category: In The Artist's Studio

Liz Barber: Organic Materiality

In an interview with our galleries, artist Liz Barber shares the process and inspiration behind her evocative body of work. Delve into her layered compositions and take a moment to appreciate the artist’s organic, free-flowing approach to art-making.

Liz Leventhal, "Petal Landscape", Mixed Media on Canvas, 48 × 84 inches.
Liz Barber, Petal Landscape, Mixed Media on Canvas, 48 × 84 inches.


What inspires you?

I am inspired by the ocean and water in general. Also by the changing of seasons. I try to connect nature with the essence of paint. I grew up right on the ocean in Massachusetts and it plays a huge role in my work. When I moved to Atlanta, my surroundings changed dramatically — for example, summer thunderstorms were more dramatic, clouds hung low, and huge plumes of cloud columns would form because of the heat and humidity. I really paid attention to new elements of nature — the different patterns and shapes, the changing colors that come with the passing of each season, all of this started showing up in my work in a representational way. I love when a shape can adopt the life of so many different forms in nature. Like how a semi-abstract water element creates depth and can feel both transparent yet opaque, and familiar yet abstract.

Liz Barber in her studio.


When did you start creating art?

As far back as I can remember I have been creating art. My Sunday school teacher at 6-7 years old pointed out to my parents that I had talent. As a kid I was constantly drawing and painting. I’ve always danced to the beat of my own drum. I have always been unafraid to experiment. I approach a new material with excitement, I enjoy seeing what I can do with it. I really focused my talent in high school enrolling in the art major program. I later went on to Moore College of Art in Philadelphia on full scholarship.

Liz Leventhal, "Water Petals 14", Mixed Media on Canvas, 50 × 72 inches.
Liz Barber, Water Petals 14, Mixed Media on Canvas, 50 × 72 inches.


What makes your work unique?

I like to think that my work takes the viewer on a journey. The expressive mark making in my work draws the viewer in, while layered materials and overlapping shapes create ambiguity. The voyeur finds, in my work, familiar forms and shapes which connect them with nature, both directly and indirectly. The organic forms and shapes outline or drift into volumetric configurations. Revealed is a unique expression of nature. My artwork also establishes a sense of place through the utilization of my playful application of space and hierarchy which I also think makes my artwork unique.

Liz Leventhal in her studio
Barber in her studio


How has your work evolved over the years?

My paintings ten years ago began a search for my voice in abstraction. I painted primarily with oil paint. Ideas were based in drawing with paint and graphite. This work was about line and movement. I created armatures of line that would support the compositions bringing forth overlapping shapes through repetition. I thought of them as a record of movement through water or light through trees. Over time I made a switch to water-based paint and the work became much more about the process of painting. The application of the paint and letting the materials move on the canvas organically became the subject matter.