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Sonoran Arts Network

April 2016
Barbara Brandel
Tucson Jewish Community Center Art Gallery

In her new exhibit at Tucson Jewish Community Center Art Gallery, Barbara Brandel does what the most interesting artists throughout history have done. She takes up important social and cultural issues in subtle ways while never allowing her art to be overcome by an argument.

At first glance, the exhibit appears to be two exhibits side-by-side. First is her Caretakers series of works that speaks to our care of our home planet. The second set of paintings, Art Makers, an homage to those people throughout time who have brought an artistic sensibility to common things – our textiles, our pottery, our tools - the stuff of everyday living.

Yet we perceive that underlying both series of paintings is an idea about where we put our attention. The idea is that our being present, our paying attention, and our being mindful of details are key and fundamental qualities of consciousness in human beings. It’s an idea that we need to value and encourage if we intend to survive as a species.

From the most-minute choice of yarn color in a woven blanket to efforts to address our global environmental problems, we humans have the capacity to be present and show our love and respect for life in all its many forms. We commit to caring for “home” because we know that the destiny of our home is in our hands now.

It’s quite clear that Brandel has an internationalist and environmentalist perspective that comes through clearly in both series of works.

The world map on an easel on display between the two series shows us the global cultures that inspired the work, and connects the local to the global. The map literally takes us on an art tour of the earth: Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru, Egypt, Turkey, Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, Ghana.

The figures in each Caretaker painting have bodies created, appropriately enough, with postage stamps from around the world. The effect is like seeing tattooed bodies emerging from the urban energy of Hong Kong to the Serengi plains who have come together to hold and take care of our planet, Mother Earth.

Brandel has said that she started this series in 2008 without realizing that she was embarking on a new path in her art. She created Caretaker (1), and a friend told her that the figure was reminiscent of Nut, the ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky. Nut stretches her elongated body over the earth, much as our atmosphere does to provide protection from ultraviolet rays and air for us to breath.

Brandel, a long-time textile artist, has also demonstrated a long-time interest in hand-crafted utilitarian and ceremonial objects. Like Nut who provides protection for Earth inhabitants, Brandel’s homage to unknown artists throughout time provides a kind of protection against forgetting the inestimable contribution of these artists. We see paintings of exquisite textiles and objects formed of clay....all created with care and love and attention to detail that only a committed artist can bring.

Brandel’s exhibit has some beautiful works, but even more important, some very compelling ideas that leave us with intriguing questions in our mind about care and memory.

The Artist’s Reception is scheduled for Sunday, April 17, from 2-4 pm at the JCC Fine Art Gallery, 3800 E. River Rd., Tucson.


  © 2023 Barbara Brandel - All rights reserved.