Barbara A Ball
Media: GlassMy work is about seeing the holy in the ordinary, the sacred embodied in the world, and then saying, “Here, look at this—see what I have seen.” I am a contemplative, but not one who can sit in silence and stillness. I walk with my eyes open, sometimes behind a camera, sometimes with a pencil and sketchbook. Then I bring those pictures home, integrate them with images that come from other walks, and from dreams, ancient symbols, quilt patterns, words that have stuck in my head, and a lifetime of drawing.
I explore the cycles of life, death and renewal using images such as seedpods, bones, a snake shedding its skin, a skeleton leaf, a lake in winter, a forest in spring, a crippled hawk, and an aging and broken athlete. I delight in water flowing over rocks, big old trees and exposed roots, flowers, cave paintings and nautilus shells. Sometimes I link images from nature with those of the recognizably sacred, such as Gothic cathedrals, a labyrinth and Celtic knots, which symbolize the union of heaven and earth. I have lately recognized how many of my designs are centered, or only slightly off-center, and I get a chuckle out of realizing that in the process of creating them, I am centering myself. Then I sandblast those images onto glass. I use glass because it is transparent, allowing images to be seen on multiple layers. Glass also transmits light, and is changed by light. I use both hand-cut and photographic masks; the latter are made from my own drawings and photographs, modified into detailed, high-contrast black and white images in Photoshop on my computer. The process of seeing, making pictures and connecting images is playful and experimental; the process of creating masks involves much craftsmanship and attention to detail. I almost always put together three layers of glass in a frame, giving both visual depth and depth of meaning. All frames are mahogany, made by my husband Steve and finished with tung oil, with great care. I also sandblast beveled glass ornaments and suncatchers, which can hang on a Christmas tree or in a window year-round, acting as prisms and throwing rainbows across the room. The images on these include geometric star quilt patterns, Celtic knots, birds and flowers, and angels in a variety of guises. I have done mirrors, doors, and glass panels for a chapel. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in visual design and illustration, and have worked for many years as a freelance illustrator, which has given me the discipline of constant drawing. Illustration translates words into pictures, as my work in glass translates the abstract into the concrete—but glass frees me from being tied to words. Drawing and photography classes have taught me to observe intently, and Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator classes have increased my technical skills.