Barbara Weidell

Barbara Weidell—ArtAscent Silver Artist of the 2024 Emotion call for artists.

There could hardly be any topic vaster than emotions. Very often, it substitutes the whole content of an art piece, dumping on us the avalanche of intimate experience. But Barbara Weidell demonstrates profound aspects of human emotions in her sculptures.

Edward Munch claimed, “I do not believe in an art that is not forced into existence by a human being’s desire to open his heart.” But talking about emotions doesn’t necessarily have to appeal to one’s subjective reflections. Everyone shares a universal layer in how we react and communicate with the world. And it is most likely to manifest itself in the borderline, pivotal moments of our lives, where we face life, death, fear, and the sublime. Such states fundamental to human culture development can be eloquently expressed through the visuality of archaic art. Barbara prolifically employs this strategy in her practice.

Utilizing materials such as clay, bones, and cloth—echoing the tradition of crafting three-dimensional figures since the Paleolithic age—Barbara creates a tactile surface that triggers a cascade of associations. The viewer immediately recognizes similarities with ancient idols in her pieces, as she seamlessly blends anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features with the simplicity of primordial sculptures. Simultaneously, she refrains from mere replication, maintaining many lifelike details that establish tension between raw material and realistic features. The wide-open eyes of her sculptures, penetrating our gaze, evoke reminiscences of ancient Egyptian portraits, subtly alluding to the transcendental dimensions they bear witness to. Intriguingly, Barbara reveals that the expressions on her sculptures are never premeditated: “It sounds mystical, but when I begin the sculpture, I have a feeling or pose in mind. Yet, as I focus on the facial features, they emerge from concentrating on the overall form.”

And though archaic references have been present in art since the avant-garde of the early 20th century, looking at Barbara’s pieces, we could be reminded of Joseph Beuys. This outstanding German visual artist regularly worked with ritualistic behaviour and natural substances like honey or fur. Both are drawn to the warmth and symbolism of prime natural materials. But if Beuys used them to intertwine his personal mythology with contemporary problems, Barbara maintains a more timeless perspective. She highlights those approaches and methods that became a universal means of channelling our fears and desires and dealing with the world’s incomprehensibility.

Barbara Weidell is a sculptor based in Luther, Oklahoma. She received her BFA in Sculpture from Sonoma State University in 1998 and an MFA in Ceramics from San Diego State University in 2002. As the Professor of Art/Sculpture and Chair of the Art Department at the University of Central Oklahoma, Barbara imparts her knowledge in drawing, mixed media, advanced sculpture, and others. Concurrently, she continues her studio work, experimenting with drawings, printmaking, ceramics, and sculpture.

Barbara Weidell is the Bronze Artist of the ArtAscent Emotions call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Emotions issue.

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