Barbara Liotta

Artist Statement

My work uses the rawest of materials to create pieces of highly

civilized and abstract beauty. If civilization is the imposition of

human direction on raw power so as not to emasculate it, but to

channel it into beauty, this is what I’m after.

“I thought, if I could cut this one step out of nature - this is what I

want to do - create something that man has touched but hasn’t

taken over.”

I make sculpture of suspended shattered stone. I’m mesmerized by

the beauty of the rock, its compelling force. I want that power to

remain intact and balance against the lyricism and grace of the

suspending cords. The cords carry each rock with a slight vibrato, as

a musician plays a stringed instrument. The cascading lines beneath

the stone contrast their lyrical chaos with the parallel linear formality

above. The work should resonate both with the architecture of the

space it occupies, and with the materials from which it is


“I am interested in the ratio between classicism and chaos.”

The weight of the stones forms a vibrating set of perfectly parallel

lines. These shimmer in contrast to the wildness and the lyricism of

the coiled cords falling below. And they are held together by the

latent force of the shattered rock.

“The stillness of the piece implies the ability to move, almost a

crouch, a waiting to spring, the pause before the surge.”

I see my work as drawing and, indeed, dancing, in space. I love the

moment in a dancer’s leap when, after he has gone up into the air

and performed the desired actions, he (or she) pauses for a perfect

extra moment. Through force of pure artistic will, a great dancer

can stretch that moment, exquisitely, insisting on his power to defy

gravity, before coming down. It is that essentially human pushing of

the moment, that transcendence from mere craft into willed beauty,

that I find spellbinding - and a prime inspiration.

“It is unafraid of beauty… And somehow torn from time. To absorb

this sculpture is to leave the twittering here and now. It doesn’t deal

in the voguish, in grievance art, for instance, or fashion or celebrity.”

My work is rigorous, stripping away the superfluous and the

decorative. I strive for a sort of essence, a clarity that will allow the

work grace but not prettiness, rhythm but not contrivance, balance

but not inertness. I strive to animate, not merely inhabit a space.

“It’s a fine line, isn’t it, between telling the truth and parading the


All of the work is human based; this is portraiture, not landscape.

However, at base, I strive for the cleanest transcendence. I want the

materials to leap to a different plateau subtly, quietly, immaculately.

It’s a “high art” concept, a striving after a certain abstract, intuitive,

visceral perfection.

“What makes his work so eerie is that it feels inhabited. It seems to

contain presences. This is, of course, old magic. Pygmalion in the

myth made cold marble come alive. The seated Lincoln on the Mall,

far more than a chunk of stone, seems sleepless in his pondering.

Most modernist abstraction shuns that tone of wizardry. This art

retrieves it. Sometimes works of art transcend the stuff they’re made

of. What’s required is belief. ‘If you believe strongly you can pump

life into materials. You can, you really can, see them lifting off the

ground like some hot-air balloon.’ ”

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