Barbara Kingery-Narrative Symbolism

I was going to write about Barbara Kingery, who is sharing the upstairs space at Adair Margo with Pamela Nelson, after her talk on Thursday but am only now getting around to it.
     Kingery calls her work “narrative symbolism,” a term which might be anathema to certain post modernists who hate any art which attempts to deal with narrative, but this is their loss. I actually see these gorgeous pieces more as visual diaries.
Kingery is Chickasaw and grew up falling in love with not simply the dances at pow-wows, but with the weavings and apparel of the dancers. She went to graduate school in Japan and this also playe a huge influence. She is curently involved with the “Hands for Hope” project which goes to places like Uganda where she helps women learn how to transform their sewing techniques into commercial products and thereby enable them to transform their lives and the lives of others in their community. Her paintings here reflect those weavings and the and the landscape through abstract portrayal of the swoop of colors on weavings and in the landscape.
 These are women who have come from war-these are women who have witnessed and lived through unspeakable horrors-these are women forwhom dance and song are integral to their lives. Kingery related how the women would be sitting methodically sewing and then spontaneously one woman would get up and start to dance and to sing and then everyone else would stand up and join in. They would then return to their sewing. Barbara was so impressed with this when she came back to the States she tried to encourage children at her church to do the same thing-to dance freely-and she found they could not; she found them too stiff to allow themselves the freedom to dance at least in a church.
In any case, her paintings reflect all of this. “Mokono Dancer” reveals swoop and movement of color. Her “On the way to Aunty Esters” portrays in somewhat abstract forms the visit to a woman in Uganda whose husband had been killed by the dictator Idi Amin. The trek to her house was long and arduous and they finally arrived at a place of beauty and peace. This journey is reflected in her painting.
She shares this space at the gallery with Pamela Nelson who also works with women and textiles to empower their lives. Nelson also makes works reflective of these weavings, but it is fascinating how differently the two women touch on the same theme. Nelson generally seems to derive her paintings from patterns and colors found in weavings, while Kingery seems to use her painting, her layered effects designed to create sculptural effects, her abstract representation of shawls and weavings to evoke place and mood. Both women are doing not only great good for humanity through their outreach work, but are creating artwork which is glorious and evocative of those distant worlds.-David Sokolec


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