“Art evokes a time of reflection and a break from today’s chaos.”
Barbara Kolo is a painter. She grew up in the New York’s borough of Queens, which at the time was considered suburbia. She and her older sister were fortunate to live on a block with many children where they could often all play together. There are fond memories of games of tag and softball in the summer and snowball fights, ice-skating and sledding in winter. Like many young girls, they loved horses and were lucky that their neighborhood had several stables where they could go there to pet the horses and occasionally go for a ride. At the time, life was easier than it is today and children had more freedom.
At 10 years old, there was a dramatic change. Barbara’s father became ill. He was in and out of the hospital for two and a half years and her mother had a full plate with her job, looking after her husband and two daughters. Barbara and her sister had to look after themselves and help around the house more and more. Barbara’s father died a few days after her 13th birthday and life changed forever for her family.
In middle school art became a passion. Her art teacher encouraged her to apply to the High School of Art and Design and she was accepted. Afterwards, she attended the School of Visual Arts. Several professors supported her talent for painting and drawing, but after her first year in college, she decided to major in Graphic Design. This was not an easy choice, but the reality was that she would have to support herself after graduation, and painting would not provide enough income.
Barbara became an award-winning art director in creative advertising for films and television, and was the recipient of several Key Art Awards, a Don Belding Award, and a New York Festivals Gold Medal among many other awards. This career led her to move to Los Angeles, where she had the opportunity to work directly with major film studios and design studios specializing in film advertising. Later, she became the Director of Print Advertising at Universal Studios, Hollywood.
After 20 years, the path not taken began to call. Barbara had lived a stressful life, always on a deadline and had burned the candle at both ends. She wanted to change her life and started to draw again which led to her work being exhibited. Soon after that, she met John, got married, and slowly transitioned from commercial art to fine art. They moved to Paris for two years and she further developed her painting. This amazing city and its rich culture greatly influenced her art.
In her second career she has exhibited internationally and participated in many art fairs including: Art Hamptons, Art Market San Francisco, Art Palm Springs, Art San Diego, Art
Southampton, Art Toronto, Art Wynwood, Context Art, Miami, The Houston Fine Art Fair, The LA Art Show and Art.Fair in Cologne, Germany. Barbara’s work is currently represented in California by Slate Contemporary. Oakland, Fresh Paint, Culver City, Artspace Warehouse, Los Angeles. In Hawaii, Art Project: Paia represents her in Maui. Her paintings can be found in public and private collections internationally.
“Art is the center of my life.”―Barbara Kolo
Barbara’s artistic flair is one of noteworthiness. Each piece has what feels to be a healing power, almost as if bringing a sense of clarity when gazed upon. It seems each painting becomes more intricate and complex the longer we allow our mind to wander through them. The elements of nature are overt and detailed, be it land, sky, air or water, it’s all there and it’s invigorating. Kolo’s art manages to be powerful and elegant simultaneously.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it.
A. My style is pointillism which has been influenced by French Impressionism, Native Australian and Asian Art.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such as memorable shows.
A. I have had many wonderful experiences exhibiting my paintings. The fact that my work has been in many art fairs around the world is a highlight. Also, the first time I saw my artist interview on the Artnet News website was exciting. The photo of me promoting the interview was next to one of Andy Warhol and seeing the two images together was surreal to me. I grew up reading stories about Warhol in the New York press and never imagined I would appear on the same page as him.
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. The artist reflects, records, and interprets the society around them. Historically, it has been an important role. When studying an ancient society their art is the key to describing their history.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I thought I’d be a veterinarian and work in a zoo, but that thought didn’t last long. Art was my main interest.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I don’t remember my first art work, but recently I found a handmade Christmas card from first grade. The card was addressed to my father and had an image of Santa Claus on the front. Santa’s image was abstracted into basic shapes. His face was a large white circle, eyes were two black dots, nose a pink dot and mouth three pink dots. He wore his traditional triangular red hat with a white dot on the end. Perhaps, this is where it all started.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. As a young child, I was influenced by the artistic people around me. My older sister would teach me drawing techniques and we would draw with her friends who were all talented. Also, our aunt who had worked as a fashion illustrator influenced me. I became serious about art around the time my father was ill, it was my way of coping with a difficult time.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. People have told me that my art expresses a feeling of calm and peacefulness. Some have described it as a stillness, but I never consciously aimed to express this feeling. That’s the magical thing about creating art. Part of your spirit and/or unconscious thought reveals itself. Some of my commercial work had this same quality.
Q. If you could work with any other artist (past or present) who would it be?
A. I would have liked to work with the photographer, Phillippe Halsman. After Halsman passed away, I had the opportunity to visit his amazing studio. It had such a sense of history. Strange as it might sound, I felt like I could feel the presence of all the famous people he photographed there. Later, I met several of his students, and all agreed that his class, which took place at his studio, was life changing. I always admired his work, especially the Jump Book. He also wrote a book on creativity that I found insightful.
Q. What is your favorite artwork of all time?
A. I cannot choose a favorite, but I own a signed poster by Keith Haring that I cherish. Keith was in one of my classes at the School of Visual Arts. I saw his career unfold in SVA, the street and the subway. I didn’t know him very well, but I saw him all the time. One day at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, he was signing posters promoting his exhibit. We had a brief conversation and he signed a poster to me.
Q. What inspires you?
A. My paintings are inspired by nature and the patterns that I see in nature. The fractal design of nature has always interested me. The fact that patterns are repeated in smaller and smaller scales is fascinating.
Q. What mediums do you work with?
A. I paint with acrylics and my work on paper is made with ink, graphite and colored pencil.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. When I first meet people, I am shy. This is often misinterpreted.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. The sacrifice was the benefits of my commercial art career which was a good salary and the status that I achieved in that community. The gain was a richer, less stressful and healthier life.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. Many artists influence me. Here are a few names that come to mind: Georges Seurat, Ando Hokusai, Andrew Forge, Georgia O’Keefe, Yayoi Kusama, Anges Martin Josef Albers and Damien Hirst.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. The many hours I spent alone are not always lonely. Sometimes hours go by like minutes when you are on a creative roll. I listen to the radio when I paint and it keeps me company as well as informed. If I start to feel lonely, I schedule lunch or a walk with a friend.
Q. Apart from your art, what do you love doing?
A. My husband and I hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. There are incredible views of the city and the ocean from the hiking trails. Also, we take long walks on Venice beach and enjoy watching the boats going to and from the marina. The colors, light and textures that I have experienced on these walks have entered my paintings, and the physical activity recharges me.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Art can create a sense of beauty and spirituality. It explores the nature of perception. Some art is created to provoke and convey strong feelings to the viewer. It is a personal freedom of expression and is a way to connect with other people.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Success has meant different things to me over time. At the moment, success is completing a work of art that I know is good and elevates my work to the next level. This is my current goal and achieving it means success. Artists can put too much pressure on themselves with measures of success. Many factors are out of our control, so it’s best to keep it simple
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. This is a hard question to answer, but I’ll mention one thing I learned that you can apply to many subjects. Don’t let fear hold you back. Work on getting rid of your fears. It will be hard and it will change your life for the better.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. Several of my art teachers stressed the importance of never giving up because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. I would advise developing a wide variety of skills. Knowing how to photograph your own artwork, retouch the photos, build a crate, stretch a canvas and write a good artist statement gives you an advantage. Most artists can not afford to pay people to help them.