Briefly describe the work that you do.
I am artistically ambidextrous in that I work in a variety of media and refuse to confine myself to a single mode of artistic expression or expertise. I came to art long ago as a functional potter working in porcelain. This eventually led to more sculptural explorations, representational painting, mixed media art and works on paper – finally arriving at nature-based installations and continually broadening conceptual concerns.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
Like most artists, the creative obsession was clearly there from an early age. I didn’t grow up in an environment that supported this though, so it took me some time to come around to trust that art could be my homing beacon; that art would support me in becoming authentic and voiced in this world. I’m there now though, and nothing can steer me off course! I’m extremely driven and focused in my work, and I think this has a lot to do with having been so terribly repressed as a young person.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I have no professional degrees, just a deep passion for what I do that’s always kept me on track. I’ve been extremely creative in how I’ve chosen to live as well as work, and have always investigated alternative models for living and occupying the world around me. I spent my twenties living in a rural intentional community and that’s very much shaped my adult values. I’m currently living off-grid, and that again is a reflection of cares and concerns reflected in my studio work.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
My work over the last couple of years is engaged with concerns about land, environment, connection to earth, biodiversity, ecological footprint, and celebration of life. I’m increasingly interested in exploring what I call “low impact” art, such as non-fired (non-carbon emitting!) sculpture and works created from natural materials, or man-made/discarded materials and unconventional reclaimed objects like tea bags or paper napkins. An example of this would be my work with making recycled paper from all my old To-Do lists, then using it as the base for collage and mixed media pieces with the addition of found paper ephemera, pen/ink, paint – and as few conventional art supplies as possible!
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
Initially I was driven to create art because I needed – desperately – to heal and to express myself. Now approaching mid-life, I’d say my motivation is more holistic and far-reaching. My artistic ambition is fueled by an unquenchable desire to touch this world in some way, to leave it a better place than how I found it.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
I think that not coming out of a traditional academic/art background has given me the freedom to explore obscure artists and be true to my own predilections. I admit I have always been moved by the work of Francesca Woodman and I adore the work of Beth Cavener Stichter. Nature is truly my greatest inspiration though, and I’d call her my main artistic influence!
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
My true loves: mountain biking/bike-packing, long distance thru-hiking, kayaking… you get the idea! My quiet intellectual side is stimulated by diving in deep to obscure topics like Arctic lichens, boreal forest ecology and researching the alchemy of paperclay or alternative photographic processes. I also have a strong dharma/spiritual practice and am interested in how personal healing relates to healing our planet.
Rebecca Barfoot is a multi-media studio artist with a serious crush on the Far North. Her recent work explores the confluence of art and earth, creativity and biodiversity. Equal parts backcountry enthusiast and wilderness advocate, Rebecca traveled to Arctic Greenland recently for an art expedition related to climate, culture, and changing landscapes. Her journey culminated in a series of work in both painting and sculpture called Last Places: A Love Letter, which has been shown in the Southwest most recently at Diane West gallery and at Telluride Mountain Film in Colorado.
A fellow of Guldagergaard Ceramic Research Center in Denmark, Rebecca has also been a ceramics resident at Women’s Studio Workshop in New York and received multiple painting fellowships at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, CO. Her work has been featured at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, BoxHeart Gallery in Pittsburgh, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and internationally in Denmark, Norway, and Canada. Also an arts educator, Rebecca is adjunct faculty at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe. She is currently living off-grid in a remote corner of southwest Colorado, working on a rewrite of humanity’s current script.
Her next project, a continued exploration of Last Places: A Love Letter, will take her to northern Canada’s Yukon Territory this summer where she will be a guest artist at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson City. Of the Yukon, she says, “I haven’t gotten to meet her yet, but I already know I’m in love.”
Rebecca is also a passionate and patient observer of the natural world, inspired by forests as much as ice and glaciers. When not making art, she favors long distance bike-packing, back-packing, dharma practice, and sitting under tall trees at night, feeling the pulse of the planet.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.