This is the first in a series of interview-based posts that highlight the mentors and protégés in the 2013-2014 Mentor Program cycle of WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota). These women artists are working together for two years to help build relationships, foster creativity and support each others professional careers. Kate Renee is interviewing each member in the program and sharing some of their art, projects, goals and involvement in the WARM program.
Kate: While normally I’d start out asking who you are, I already know Barbara very well! Barbara and I are both protegees together with the same mentor. However, please introduce yourself!
Barbara: Greetings, I am Barbara Bridges.
Kate: How are you involved in WARM program?
Barbara: I am the protégé of the extraordinary Jill Waterhouse.
Jill at a valentine card making event.
Kate: What do you do as an artist? Tell me a bit about your current projects.
Barbara: I make art from artist fabricated components in a variety of media and found power objects. I organize the objects to create meaning and provoke discussions and reflection on a wide variety of social topics including sustainability, living a considered life (Talking Chairs and Onion/Academia Nuts) and recovery (Reflection Pool). Click here and cruise around.
Kate: Can you share some of your work?
Multimedia: photographs, handmade paper, wood, motherboards
Dimensions: 36″ x 52″
Barbara: The artwork “Onion/AKA Academia Nuts” is a hybrid style of art which incorporates conceptual and modernistic characteristics. “Onion/AKA Academia Nuts” and artworks like it, represent our “lived experience” in visual form. The visual artwork and first chapter of “Academia Nuts” takes you on an insider tour of the surreal world of the academy. This art work explores and records, in visual and text form, the firestorm created at Bemidji State University when the artist brought digital teaching and learning to the campus in 2001. Onion/AKA Academia Nuts could also be subtitled: ‘Smart People Behaving Badly.” The first chapter of the graphic novel, “Academia Nuts” will be released.
Kate: Since we have been in the WARM program together, you’ve talked a lot about your Ode to Gluten piece. I am excited to see it exhibited during Art-a-Whirl this year in the Grain Belt Building. Can you share a little bit about this piece?
Kate: I know that you are a teacher, can you tell me a little about your career as an arts educator?
Barbara: I received two Minnesota Art Educator of the Year awards in 1998 and 2008 from the Art Educators of Minnesota and the National Art Educators Association. My teaching career began in Maine in 1976 where I was an art teacher. Since then, I have expanded my sphere of influence to Mexico, the Caribbean and Minnesota. I have partnered with various Minnesota institutions such as the Minneapolis School District, the Minnesota Online High School, Perpich Center, the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Weisman Museum, and the Minnesota Museum of Art. The online discussion group ArtsNet Minnesota came out of those collaborations. ArtsNet Minnesota currently boasts a membership of over 600 as well as a site that contains over 8,000 pages of material.
Kate: Do you have another work of art you would like to share?
Multimedia: Wood, metal, found power objects, paint, plastic. Everything.
Talking Stick 8: X 3 “ Wood, fur, bones, teeth
Dimensions: Each Chair is approximately 3’ X 3’ X 4.5’ tall
Barbara: The installation “Talking Chairs” was designed to provides you with the opportunity, extends you an invitation, provides a safe environment under the guise of performance art, to reflect on the “Meaning and Purpose of Life” from different worldviews.
Kate: What is the performance act to the Talking Chairs piece?
Barbara: The artist and actors start the discussion by sharing their views on the “Meaning and Purpose of Life” from their interpretation of the worldview of the persona of the chair they occupy. Only the person in possession of the talking stick may speak. YOU will be invited to take a seat and join the discussion. Please add objects to the Talking Stick to imbue the talking stick with the power of your voice.
Kate: Now that we know more about you and your artwork, how did you get involved with WARM?
Barbara: After a long career as a teacher and creating art in isolation for many of those years- especially the last decade- I needed the fellowship of a community of artists and direction on the most appropriate way to enter the culture of makers here in Minneapolis.
Kate: At the beginning of the program, we had a day where Jill’s protegees met together and created our work plan. It was fun to meet each other, talk about our art work and plans for our career. What are your goals for this year in the program?
Barbara: I hope to develop new creative associates who are trying to live considered lives. I want to support their efforts and hope they will support mine in that direction.
Kate: Both you and I have been busy attending as many WARM events as we can attend. What has been your most favorite WARM event? What happened there and why did you like it?
Barbara: All the events have been inspiring in different ways. Jill took us to the history center to view the Roz journal project. It really jazzed me to take my Travel Journal project over the top. Click here to view the nascent beginnings. Click here to see Kate’s report on our visit.
Kate: Can you share the process for joining WARM?
Barbara: A friend in North Dakota mentioned the program to me. I found it two weeks before this protégé cycle started. I attended the information sessions, went to the mentor presentations and decided it was just exactly what I was looking for to help me move into this next part of my life.
Kate: What is the one artistic change you have experienced so far?
Barbara: I am positively ON FIRE for making, thinking and talking about art. I need to work on my craftsmanship and the shear output has been helpful in that area.
Kate: What is one thing you have realized about yourself while in WARM?
Barbara: Most of my professional career, I have had to hide who I am. Letting people know I was an art specialist just disempowered my voice for change. This fact, combined with the steam punk style of art I create, was a liability. I feel set free. I realized I DO have something important, and of interest to others, to share.
Kate: What is one challenge you are facing while in the program?
Barbara: Still having a 60 hour a week job. ONE MORE YEAR. ONE MORE YEAR.
Kate: Thank you for introducing yourself Barbara! Where can we find more information about you and your artwork?
Barbara: http://bridgescreate.com. Select “Art”