Barbara Irwin

Barbara Irwin
3905 B Grayson Lane - Austin, Texas 78722  (512) 482-8163 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting    end_of_the_skype_highlighting


"A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength." -From A Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson

This quote has stayed with me for years, in part because it so closely speaks to my nature as well as that of my work. I feel I was blessed by the good fairy with that indestructible sense of wonder, and for that I am eternally grateful. Carson is talking very specifically in her book about wonder as it relates to the natural world, but my sense of wonder extends to almost all things. That is the basis for my work. A rusty piece of metal on the side of the road is not just trash. It has its own inherent beauty and I notice that. I think about, am in awe of it and incorporate it into artwork so that other people also have the opportunity to see, to wonder, and to appreciate.

Over the years, I have taken turns at being an interior designer, a department store buyer, a certified Montessori teacher, an herbalist, and an artist. I was even involved in building a 42-foot trimaran sailboat and sailing from Texas to Hawaii. Since the time I was a teenager, I have created collages, but it was not until I was in my forties that I actually considered putting my art out into the world. Someone visited my home in Hawaii and asked to buy one of the framed collages I had hanging on the wall; collages that, before, had only ever been created for family and friends for birthdays and Christmas. I started showing in a little gallery in Hilo and before long, an artist in town who had won a grant for a recycled-art exhibition called to challenge me to create something for the show. I made five found-art pieces and from that point on, never stopped.

Everyone's relation to "junk" is unique. For me, the creation of my sculptures is a way of giving a new life to something-the transformation of a spoon into a flower petal. Whether I find an object along the roadside on the way to my bus stop, or discover an item in an antique or thrift store, there are castaway treasures everywhere for those who keep their eyes open and see the possibilities of such transformation.

At times, I have come home to find a container of things that someone has cleared out and left on my doorstep with the hope that I can rescue and recondition them into art. If something doesn't quite speak to me, I enjoy passing it on to other found-object artists who may be able to unlock its potential.

After many years of wanting to learn how to weld, at the age of 65, I finally started taking classes at Austin Community College. My love of nature, especially in the form of flowers, provided the impetus for taking my found-object work to a new level. Welding allowed me to create a series of whimsical, not-your-garden-variety metal flower sculptures.

Sometimes one of my pieces comes together quickly and other times it may take years to find that single missing piece that brings it to fruition. There is no sketching or drawing or any planning out of a piece-just a spontaneous playing with objects, shapes, textures, patterns, and colors. Then, as suddenly as it began, the piece is complete. It's a process that has been evolving for thirty plus years. From creating fantastical tableaux inside of strange caged environments or emerging from the interiors of dolls' heads, to pieces of an abstract spiritual quality, or artistic-yet-functional lamps, or wonderfully strange garden sculptures, I keep finding new and different ways to beautifully recycle-repurpose-reuse. When we learn to realize the uniqueness and beauty in everything, then we can understand that nothing is ever ordinary.


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