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I work in multiple mediums with little allegiance to specific subject matter, though my bodies of work are conceptually and aesthetically connected.  While disassembling and reorganizing the visual information and materials at hand, I investigate themes of containment and confinement, the directed viewpoint, and the protective or aversive shielding of precious internal information.

My work involves real and vigorous physical action: scraping, erasing, stitching, nailing, welding.  I often scrub and scratch and otherwise mar the surface in order to bring out an “object-ness” in each piece.  Active line in all mediums asserts the fundamental importance of drawing.  Working in one medium feeds the progression of ideas in another.

I get a sense that this object—this painting or sculpture or drawing—is both familiar to me and unknowable at the same time.  It excites the periphery of my consciousness, in that place where logic, emotion and instinct collide.  I like this ambiguity; it invites the viewer to actively complete the piece by finding their own personal meaning in it.


Born in Virginia, Barbara Downs now lives in Santa Cruz, California.  She did her undergraduate work at the University of Santa Cruz in studio art, focusing on traditional lithography on limestone.

During this time, she made her living as a draftsperson, doing electro-mechanical drawings on vellum, and later in AutoCAD.  Among other jobs, she did mechanical design and drafting for an early private rocket company.  Her drafting background exerts an ongoing influence in her art, in ways both mundane and profound.

When her daughter was born with serious and ongoing medical conditions, Barbara’s appreciation of life’s mysteries was greatly enriched; eventually she was able to turn her attention towards the inward experience created by such trauma and redemption.

Barbara’s art now spans multiple mediums including painting, drawing, encaustic and sculpture.  She has shown regionally, nationally and internationally.  Her work is included in various corporate and private collections.

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