artnet Asks: Barbara Kolo on Taking Her Inspiration from Mother Nature

In both art and life, Barbara Kolo isn't afraid to take risks.

Portrait: by Eric Minh Swenson, in her Santa Monica, CA studio.

Born and raised in New York, Barbara Kolo attended the High School of Art and Design and received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts. Before developing her career as an artist she worked as an art director in creative advertising for television and film. Inspired by her love of nature, Kolo began creating abstract, pointillist works that have been exhibited around the world. Barbara is represented by JanKossen Gallery in New York and Basel, Switzerland, and her paintings are currently on view in the group exhibition, Water Works, at MOAH:CEDAR in Lancaster, CA.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
When my aunt, a former fashion illustrator, would set up the kitchen table in her Brooklyn apartment with art supplies and draw with me and my sister. I was very young and I just knew that I would have a career in the arts. She was a big influence on both of us.

What are some of the things that inspire you?
Mother Nature has always been my inspiration. On a recent hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, I observed how the color of the brush has changed with California’s drought, and how the new color harmonized well with the palette of the landscape. I noticed some grey rocks had fallen on to a dry fire road in an elegant way, and watched the cool marine layer roll in and cover the Los Angeles basin in a blanket of clouds. It made me think about the ways Mother Nature works as an artist. The symmetry, harmony, and light are truly inspiring.

Barbara Kolo, Time Revisited  (2014). Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in. Photo: courtesy of JanKossen Contemporary Gallery.

Barbara Kolo, Time Revisited (2014). Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in. Photo: courtesy of JanKossen Contemporary Gallery.

Do you have a motto for yourself or your creative process?
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Whether it has to do with my painting or my personal life, I find that taking risks is the key to learning and growing. Life is never dull when you’re willing to take risks. Of course, not everything will turn out as you wished, but that’s part of the learning process. Risk-taking is a key to success.

Do you ever experience artist’s block? What do you do to overcome it?
Leaving the studio and going for a ride up the Pacific Coast Highway in my husband’s 1965 Jaguar E-Type can be like a breath of fresh air. In general, I find doing something else you enjoy and find stimulating to be very helpful. Seeking new information on the web to break the block and solve a problem can also be useful.

If you could own any artwork, what would it be?
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, because I associate that painting with a fond memory. In my twenties, I worked near MoMA in Manhattan and would stop in on my lunch hour to look at the painting. Having read about Van Gogh’s life I knew all about his struggles and illness. I really connected with the painting; so much so it once brought me to tears.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s hard to pick a highlight, but this summer I exhibited with JanKossen Gallery at Art Southampton and it meant a great deal to me. I grew up going to the Hamptons and love the area. To be able to return and participate in the art fair was a wonderful experience.

Momentum, Acrylic on Canvas, 2015, at Art Southampton. Photo: courtesy of JanKossen Contemporary Gallery.

Barbara Kolo, Momentum (2015). Acrylic on canvas. Art Southampton. Photo: courtesy of JanKossen Contemporary Gallery.

What are you working on at the moment?
Paintings for an upcoming exhibition of three artists at LA Artcore in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. We all find inspiration from the natural world. It will be interesting to see each artist’s point of view on the common theme. I’ll be showing a mixture of several series of my work, and am looking forward to seeing them hung together for the first time.

How do you decide to title your works?
My titles usually stem from my inspiration for the work. Words come to mind as I paint. Often there’s no commitment to a title until the painting is completed. Short titles that engage the viewer are my preference, and I avoid titles that describe the painting literally.

How has your work evolved over time?
I started out as a representational artist producing mostly drawings, and my skill improved over time. Then a radical change happened. My husband and I moved to Paris for two years while he worked on a project for Disney. In the city of light I absorbed the riches of the art, history, and culture. I had amazing experiences drawing in museums and painting in my studio by the Bastille. Upon our return, my work became abstract and the pointillist style I work in now emerged. People began to tell me my work looked aboriginal which lead me to explore Australian art. In the past year, my painting has become more minimal and influenced by Asian art.


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