Studio Visit: Barbara Walton
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Studio Visit: Barbara Walton


Barbara Walton’s studio is located in downtown Ames where she has been a professor in Integrated Studio Arts at Iowa State University for 23 years. After walking up a narrow flight of stairs, I saw Barbara’s open studio door at the end of the hallway. Although the day I visited was rainy and gray, the studio was still filled with light and felt like a space conducive to creating. After giving me a tour and showing me the remnants of the occasional two or three-person encaustic workshops she holds there, Barbara picked up where she had left off on a new painting and I began to photograph the studio while we talked more.

Barbara Walton studio view 1

O-L: What led you to primarily working with encaustic and why do you prefer it to other media?

BW: It was always the mystery medium in the museums or the occasional exhibition that one might encounter an encaustic painting. I decided to look into it and took a weeklong encaustic workshop in Santa Fe in 2001. The gauntlet was thrown down with its immediacy in dry time and the amazingly sensuous aroma of beeswax. There were so many techniques to explore and endless applications.

Barbara Walton studio view 2

O-L: While your subject matter varies quite a bit, you seem to work around similar themes encompassing the natural and spiritual world. What are some of your influences and what subjects do you find yourself revisiting or more drawn to? 

BW: I always found refuge in nature. Being in nature comforted me and afforded me a wildness and curiosity and it made more sense than any organized religious upbringing.  
It is truth that we ourselves are nature and not above or separate from nature. The work that I do is a way to honor, to meditate to, to pray to, to conjure, to heal, to evoke, to remember, this connection. 

  • The horse – I was a 13-year-old city kid when I asked my parents for a horse. When they said “no”, I said “yes” in my head and began mowing lawns, babysitting, working at the market and bought myself a horse by the time I was 14. Caring and keeping this big beautiful buckskin gelding kept me grounded and alive, in my angst filled teenaged years. The horse = my holy dog = my totem.
  • The Lotus – When I have been absent from my studio for too long, I begin with a mandala painting to re-acquaint, find my way, my rhythm in my studio.

Barbara Walton studio view 3

O-L: The way you speak about your interests is very poetic. Your artwork often includes words and individual letters, so I’m curious what types of writings and/or research you gravitate toward and how that started to manifest in your practice?

BW: Text allows a place to begin, a focus. Even so, by the time I have completed a work, most of the words can become completely obscured. This doesn’t negate or lessen the value of the underlying text but rather allows a history, a depth, an enigma. The various text I choose come from prayers, poems, songs, invocations, meditations, mantras, literature, all which express an honoring, a reverence of earth, of nature, of all beings. The writings come from all over the world, from historical to contemporary.

O-L: What’s next for you? Any major projects or goals you have yet to conquer?

BW: I am excited to be working on the 20 Artists/20 Parks Project, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Iowa State Parks in 2020. This project is supported by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Arts Council. Pikes Peak Park is the park I have been assigned.
Beyond this, I have a dream to paint a large mural on a concrete wall using encaustic painting techniques and another dream to apply encaustic to sculptural forms that I would build.

Barbara Walton studio view 4

To experience Barbara’s work in person, be sure to come by the gallery on May 31st from 5-7pm for the opening reception of our ANNUAL LANDSCAPE SHOW

Interview and photography by Alyss Vernon 

05/24/2019 2:28 PM |Add a comment
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