When I first met Walter Herrmann after deciding to get this blog started, he gave me a list of the movers and shakers in the Central Ohio art scene and high on that list was Barb Vogel. Since that day 2 1/2 years ago (Oh, my!! how time flies!!!!), I’ve had the honor of not only meeting her but joining CAW (she is a member) and displaying my art in the same venue as hers…wow! It’s taken me a while to get an interview going, but I am pleased to say that we finally connected and I am now going to share with you what I learned about this talented lady.
We first corresponded via email and then I made the trek down to Spring Street to see the studio she shares with an amazing group of artists. We met on a Sunday afternoon and discussed her life, her art, the Central Ohio art scene and the changes she has seen over the years as well as travel and the impact that has on her works.
She grew up in Granville and said that she was always either drawing/painting or taking photos and views herself as always being a visual person. (Her congenital hearing loss probably also played a part in her becoming more visual …we’ll talk about that later) So,, it wasn’t a stretch for her to choose OSU and fine arts/painting as her college path. We discussed how art education and the role of women have changed over the last 40 years. She said that she had NO female professors while at OSU for undergrad studies and that she was often ‘complimented’ by profs who said she “painted like a man”…WHAT??? Boy, we have come a long way, baby!
Perhaps I was attracted to the visual field because I was always reading people or watching rather than listening, since I didn’t listen very well with my hearing loss. I have a reverse curve so to speak, like a person with Meniere’s disease, so I don’t hear lower tones or male voices, it is a gift my audiologist told me. I have always been more visual than verbal and more perhaps intuitive rather than having forethought.
After graduation, she kept working on her art in her spare time but landed a job as a paralegal and worked in this field for over 10 years. That job was particularly advantageous to her as she pretty much had the run of the office and didn’t have the usual 9-5 where you are confined to a desk/cubicle. However, after several years there she yearned for a more creative career. At that point, she decided to go into photography and attended the Ohio Institute of Photography in Dayton, a little technical school that was highly recommended to her for training in commercial photography.
Even though many friends thought she was ‘nuts’ for going into it, she became a commercial photographer and began working at the Medical Center of OSU. She remained there for 15 years and stated that she learned so much from that job, especially working with Kojo, a fellow photographer with whom she shared a darkroom. He was very patient and taught her so much about light/dark and so many other aspects of photography. She also shared that he is an amazing artist in his own right having documented the Black history of Columbus. While there, she worked intensively with the journalism department and thoroughly enjoyed that experience…she said they had so much fun together! She was also fortunate to have the University pay a portion of her tuition so she decided to go back to school and get an MFA in Photography where she actually had TWO, yes TWO, female instructors!!! As the focus of her department changed and more and more of her journalism colleagues moved on, she decided to close the door on that chapter of her life and began teaching part time at both Columbus State and Columbus School for Girls again for about 15 years. Those gigs lasted until about 3 years ago when she finally decided she wanted to focus more on her own art. I used to do 9 to 5, ugh, and I feel sorry for those artists that have to squeeze in their art making around a job, always a brain struggle and never enough what I call, process time. I consider myself a professional artist.
She has shared a studio with other artists at 55 Spring Street for 26 years and now works in it for 3-4 hours a day. Many of these artists have been there as long as Barb while others have come and gone. She feels very fortunate to have gotten in on this studio as it was one of the first of it’s kind in the Columbus area. She was pretty adamant about never wanting to have a studio in her home because she prefers to only have feedback from other artists when she asks for it …she said her hubby, Art (isn’t that appropriate!), would give way too much unsolicited advice so she opted to take that off the relationship table! Did I mention that she’s got a great sense of humor, too?
Speaking of her husband, he has now retired from working as first a printer and then in management at the Columbus Dispatch. That has enabled them to spend most of their winters in Naples Florida as well as adding more time for them to travel although they have traveled together all over the world. They have traveled throughout Europe as well as other places and always enjoy going to art museums, studios, etc. And, now that he has retired, he is also helping her by making many of the frames for her work…win, win!
Besides traveling with Art, Barb has also had the opportunity to travel extensively with women friends. She went to Spain with Marge Bender and another female artist friend for 2 weeks, has traveled to Calcutta (that had a big impact on her!) and, just recently, spent a week in Cuba with Elsie Sanchez and a group of artists touring the ceramics museum and seeing 8 or 9 artists’ studios. Although she says that she is still processing that trip, she did have some thoughts about her experience. She found it very odd that Castro enables many artists to get visas and travel extensively in contrast to the number of people who are not artists and are denied visas due to their age, their likelihood of permanently leaving Cuba, etc. The economics of the country was also fascinating as she said that surgeons and psychiatrists were their taxi drivers and doormen because they make about the same salary as the average Joe and need to work a second job to be able to support their families! Big difference from the USA!! One of the other things she commented on was how little the artists they met had in the way of materials…so often without paint or other things critical to creating yet they somehow found ways to find things to use in their art. Ultimately, she said that all of her travels have affected her art in some way and broadened her view of creating.Cuba was beautiful and the people have a lively spirit and make do with what they have.
Currently, she lives in Grandview with Art whose ‘art’ is cooking. Barb is very thankful for that as she is pleased that she doesn’t have to deal with that at all!!! She also has 3 grown stepchildren and 6 grandchildren most of whom live in the area. But the most fascinating relative for me was her 93 year old aunt who was a commercial artist, still creates and just recently had a solo show at the assisted living facility where she lives! I think Barb’s talent may run in the genes??
When asked to explain her art, Barb states that her work combines painting and photography, with work in photographic alternative processes. Her current pieces have been created with a hand held wand scanner that is usually used for text. She prints these, mounts them on board, and covers them with encaustic wax. Her current work deals with portraits and botanical scans which are then covered with the wax to add that layer of mystery…I think she has succeeded with that, don’t you?
2015 has been an extremely productive year for her and has focused on her friendships with other artists. In April/May, she and her great friend Marge Bender presented a collaborative show that was curated by Ann Bremner called “Friends and Family” at the Dublin Arts Council. Later in May and June, she collaborated with five artist colleagues in “Beyond Photography,” a show presented at Upper Arlington’s Concourse Gallery and curated by Char Norman. Then in June,she participated in the C.A.W. (Creative Arts of Women) show at the Urban Arts Space for our Remnants show where she thought the diversity of work and ideas was amazing. Following that, she once again exhibited her work at the Ohio State Fair.
Each of these shows is fun and uplifting in its own way. The Dublin Arts Council exhibit was particularly memorable because so many friends attended the opening. We filled not only the gallery but the parking lot was overflowing with friends who traveled distances to see the show! It was a great evening and a reunion of so many people who have influenced my art and supported me through the years.
Speaking of which, she wanted to issue a big ‘thank you’ to all who have contributed to her art making.She feels blessed that she has the support of numerous women’s arts groups, including C.A.W. For 25 years, she feels fortunate to have been a part of the Spring Street Studios and her studio mates are a constant source of inspiration. Through the years, her “day job” and coworkers also inspired her artistic endeavors. Cindy Stone at Miami Valley Hospital and then Kojo Kamau at OSU Hospitals and College of Medicine taught her much about photography, life and the fusion of the two. She’s also had the opportunity to teach at The Ohio State University, Columbus State University, and a few semesters at Columbus School for Girls, where Nan Hadley, of the CSG Art Department, was a great mentor. My (appropriately named) husband, Art, with whom I share our home in Grandview Heights, has also offered great support through the years.
She also has had show in September at the Southern Ohio Museum (Portsmouth, Ohio) with friends Alan and Clara Crockett and she will be giving a gallery talk there on November 12th at 6 p.m. But the most exciting event for her recently is being chosen for The Riffe having their first inaugural juried exhibition, which opens November 5th…woot!
Barb is also a member of CAW and the Ohio Art League. Formerly a member of the steering committee for CAW, she stepped down from that roll to give newer members an opportunity to serve and to focus more on creating her art.
Through my work and shows, I hope to continue to make new friends and art. I see both of those in her future, don’t you?