Visions from the Source
Villanova, PA – Carol Barth's journey in becoming a conceptual surrealist painter of transcendent themes took much of a lifetime. The Doylestown, PA, painter sums up her long night of seeking: “When I was 50, I looked at death and painted to survive; transitions in life and art were difficult to find. When I was 60, I learned to paint and painted to live; images of light filled my canvases, reflecting hope and strength, and sometimes beauty. I'm in my 70s now; I paint worlds of imagination, of a deeper communion and my ultimate union with time and space.”
“Visions from the Source”, a retrospective of Barth's light-filled, ethereal canvasses, opens Friday, April 15, at the Villanova University Art Gallery with a free public reception from 5 to 7 pm. to meet the artist. The gallery is located in the Connelly Center on the Villanova campus. Refreshments will be served. The exhibit continues to June 11.
Featured in numerous shows in the Philadelphia area and elsewhere, this will be the award-winning artist's first solo exhibit in a university. Once an impressionist landscape artist, Barth's more recent canvasses present images of water, earth, sky, and the sun's rays as symbolic of her interpretation of transitions in life and the ultimate transition of death. “Painting is my life force and transitions a part of my process. My use of value contrast in color intensifies the lights and the darks in my work. I paint from my heart, soul and imagination reflecting my own personal spirituality,” she says. Her presentation will feature four 60-inch paintings, medium and small works, along with a few charcoal and pastel drawings.)
The exhibit's “Visions from the Source” title derives from writings by Barth's admired brother-in-law, Jesuit priest, poet and scholar J. Robert Barth, who founded the music and theater departments at Boston College and is credited with revitalizing the institution's arts curriculum in the 1980s. His death from cancer in 2005 had a profound effect on the artist and her art.
Rev. Barth is also the inspiration for the artist's 4-foot by 5-foot oil on canvas, “The Stained Glass Window”. In his highly regarded 2003 book, “Romanticism and Transcendence”, Rev. Barth proposes the presence of a divine act in the poetic works of William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, who heralded the Romantic Age in 19th century English literature. Paraphrasing the book's prologue, the artist writes of her large painting:
“The stained glass window and the light of the sun are intimately united so that we cannot perceive one without the other. This is what it takes when God and man become so united in love that they are perceived together as the rays that emanate from the sun remain one with it, as the water from the fountain remains one with its source.”
At an age when many people are contemplating retirement, Barth was re-evaluating her art and moving away from the realism that she had been trained in and worked at for so long. “I learned to work with the images that came to my mind's eye and finally began doing the work I was meant to do,” she says.
The road getting to the level of personal expression she sought was long, hard and circuitous. For a time, she worked as a graphic artist for the System Planning Corporation outside Washington, D.C, a major research and analysis firm serving industry and government. The job was not the career goal that the Troy, NY, native had in mind when she got her bachelor's degree in art from Buffalo State Teachers College in 1959. Says Barth:
“It was a far cry from the painter I had hoped to become, but I was learning layout, photography, and technical drawing, as well as learning to produce quality work under deadline pressure.” She continued taking drawing and painting classes which were, she says, “fueling an increasing passion for knowledge in painting techniques and new ways of thinking about art.”
She painted plein air landscapes and portraits on commission. Her work was included in numerous art galleries and exhibits, and she was winning notice.
She studied extensively; at the Woodstock School of Art in upstate New York; the Vermont Studio Center, the United States’ largest international residency program for artists and writers, and at the Lighthouse Gallery of School and Art in Tequesta, Florida.
In 1994, at age 56 – some 35 years after earning her undergraduate diploma – Barth received summa cum laude honors with her Master of Fine Art degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design where, “an incredibly eclectic and gifted group of artists and teachers opened my mind and heart to both a personal and an objective viewing of art and life.” After graduate school, she joined with other artists in launching a co-op gallery in Savannah and two years later opened her own gallery in Hobe Sound, Florida.
In 1998 she left Florida for the small town of Brevard, NC, and set up her easel facing the mountain waterfalls of Pisgah National Forest. She lived, taught, painted, and exhibited her work in Brevard for six years, yet began to sense something missing in her personal life.
Through the on-line dating site Match.com, Barth met and married John Lodholz of Doylestown. The Carol Barth Studio and Gallery is part of their home in Doylestown.
Barth ponders the mysterious processes and forces from which her art has evolved, including the ability to see and interpret through her canvasses life transitions that she once found elusive. She is drawn to something said by Albert Einstein:
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
The Villanova University Art Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Please call for weekend and extended hours. For other art gallery information, telephone (610) 519-4612. Carol Barth's work presented in “Visions from the Source” may be previewed on the Gallery's website at www.artgallery.villanova.edu.