A Barbara Sullivan fresco is both strange and familiar, tidy and off kilter, tragic and ebullient. The individual shaped fresco objects work well on their own, but Sullivan often arranges them in narrative, thematic scenarios using the wall as her ground. Her contemporary use of an age old medium places Sullivan’s work firmly in the catagory of painting, yet they are individual bas-relief objects which exist simultaneously as sculpture. Sullivan has successfully bridged these two disciplines, writes Chris Baker for ART NEW ENGLAND. Barbara Sullivan’s work both satirizes and celebrates the monotony of everyday life. Sullivan attended Montserrat School of Art in Beverly, MA and Concept in Portland, ME. She received a B.A. in Visual Art and Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington and an M.F.A. at Vermont College. She has given many fresco workshops at colleges and art centers throughout New England and New York. She currently teaches drawing and painting at The University of Maine at Farmington. In 2007, Sullivan received a Pollock/Krasner Grant and an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Support Grant. Recent group and solo exhibitions include Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland, ME, The Maine Biennial of the Portland Museum of Art, in Portland, ME, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME, and Morgan Rank Gallery, East Hampton , NY. “Fresh/Fresco”, an exhibit at Ernest Rubenstein Gallery in New York City, included her work in 2001. Her most recent Caldbeck installation, SEASONAL SUITE, 2018, focussed on imagery from Sullivan’s memories of the childhood, populated with wild and domesticated animals, across the arc of a year. The installation – large scale wall drawings with frescos attached, filled the entire upper gallery, creating an immersive, transportive environment.
Barbara Sullivan on her COUNTER-TWEETS 2020: “The seed for my ‘Counter-Tweets’ began back in 2011 when I made my own Bird Chart. The intention was to make a backdrop for the fresco birds I have made for years – no doubt influenced by Audubon charts I have seen. I made large drawing of a forest 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide with a sharpie pen. I then attached fresco birds that I had seen and identified on top of the large drawing. In early March of 2020 when the Corona Virus arrived, like many, my teaching went on-line. I was home and in my studio. My studio was jam-packed with a retrospective show that fortunately has taken over a large part of my studio. I began to clean my studio to get ready to work. I had many wood scraps, which I generally take to the dump, to free up space and clear my head. As I was moving them I thought, “this is no time to waste even a morsel”. It was then that I got the idea to send out my fresco songbird “Counter-Tweets”. So far, I think I am upwards of 25, sent to people who need a good gesture, or a happy ‘note’, or a pat on the back for good works. I’ve sent them to health officials, those who hold office, art educators, the bereaved, artists, and friends. They are sent as small surprises to uplift during these tumultuous times of health crises and political unraveling.” July 2020