Devotion | Oil on Primed Masonite | 36 x 36 inches | 2022

Artist Spotlight: Barbara Berry

Barbara Berry seemed destined to create art. She grew up in an art-filled home in rural Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, and her talented mom earned money painting portraits of local children. “I would stand behind her and absorb it, and I assumed that I should be able to do it, too.” Indeed, she could. In fifth grade, the school principal bought her accomplished watercolor — completed for an anti-pollution contest — depicting seagulls flying away from trash on the dunes of Assateague Island, off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. “And everybody in my class said, ‘Barbara, you’re going to be an artist.’” 

But Berry’s creative leanings took a different direction at the age of 13, when she learned to play the guitar and began writing and singing songs. “Music became my deep passion” — so much so that, after her family moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, when she was 16, she went on to study classical singing at the University of Colorado, eventually performing for 20 years as a professional classical soprano in Europe and America.

New Year’s Nap | Pastel | 11 x 14 inches | 2021

Motherhood led Berry to resettle in Pennsylvania where, as her children grew, she enrolled them in classes at Wayne Art Center. “Then I saw the adult classes they were offering and thought, I’ve got to do this, it’s perfect!” A mentorship under Teresa DeSeve, a pastel master in figurative and portrait work as well as landscapes, nurtured in Berry a new sense of purpose. “When I started with her, she said, ‘Oh my gosh, something’s going to happen in your life.’” And it did. As she continued honing her skills in workshops with other artists, including the instructors of Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, Berry developed a colorful impressionist style in both pastels and oils, characterized by a dynamic combination of sure-eyed representationalism and dynamically abstract mark-making.

Today, Berry’s accomplishments have been recognized with professional memberships in such organizations as Oil Painters of America, Pastel Society of America, the American Impressionist Society, and the Philadelphia Watercolor Society, and she’s won numerous awards, including selection as a semifinalist in the Best Animals and Birds category for the charmingly serene New Year’s Nap at the 2022–2023 PleinAir Salon Art Competition.

Morning Gossip | Oil on Primed Birch | 20 x 20 inches | 2023

Meanwhile, Berry finds fresh inspiration from regular returns to the Western roots of her teenage years, spending several weeks every three months at a place she acquired back in Sheridan County, Wyoming. “My parents still live there,” she says, “and the geography, the big, clear skies, the sunshine, and the rapturous views constantly make me feel happy and energetic.”

See Berry’s work at Ballard’s Fine Art in Big Horn, Wyoming; Wayne Art Center Main Gallery and The Gallery Shop at Wayne Art Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania; LeBus East Falls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Glasshouse Gallery at Marshlands, Glenmoore, Pennsylvania.

Based in San Rafael, California, Norman Kolpas is the author of more than 40 books and hundreds of articles. He also teaches nonfiction writing in The Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

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