Painting is not just another creative outlet for Bass Harbor artist Barbara Strubell. Having overcome a difficult early childhood and battles with addiction, painting has kept her centered, disciplined, and sober.
Strubell, 68, has lived in Maine over 40 years, drawn to the state's natural beauty. "I can remember living in a city and remember wishing I could see trees outside my window," said Strubell. She described having a difficult childhood in which she lived in eight foster homes before being adopted at the age of 12. It was art that provided a positive, creative outlet in those tumultuous formative years, and Strubell recalled being drawn to artists who paint with immediacy, color, and vibrancy. "As a troubled youngster, I was drawn right to Van Gogh," Strubell said. "I don't cry as a rule, but when I saw his self-portrait, tears came to my eyes."
Years later, Strubell recalled how coming to Mount Desert Island helped her overcome some very difficult, personal challenges. "One of the reasons I paint landscapes is because, once I settled down, part of the healing of my sobriety was getting outside," said Strubell, who has been sober for over 25 years. "The mountains, the woods, the shore and the ocean are just wonderful for me. I'm a very visual person, and inspiration in nature is everywhere." painting gives her peace.
Meanwhile, Strubell continues with her full-time business at her year-round business, Artful Designs Hair Care and Art in Southwest Harbor, which is festooned with her work. And while the salon pays the bills, it's also a creative outlet. "Hair is sculpture," she said. "It's color, its line, its composition. … Plus there's the social aspect of it. I'm basically a hermit, but being a hairdresser allows me to interact with people."
Not content to sit on her laurels, Strubell said she has plans to learn to paint figures and portraits and to delve into abstracts. While the library exhibition will also feature a sculpture and some water colors, the primary focus will be on Strubell's oil paintings.
"I'm very a deliberate painter, and they dry slowly,” Strubell said. “And I can mix the colors to do whatever I want them to do. It's a very pleasing experience overall." Strubell said she loves the feel of working with oils, as well as the vibrant colors they produce. Each painting conveys a different mood, whether it's the tranquility of her big sky painting, "Sunset Over Bass Harbor," or the feminine quality of a piece of driftwood discovered on a beach in "Driftwood." With her art, Strubell conveys a range of emotions, from blissfulness to sadness to joy.
"The last painting I did was 'A Wonderful Walk.' What I wanted to evoke is the complexity of what we have in the woods. I see beauty everywhere," she said. "Some of my paintings have a strong feminine aspect. When I often look at trees, I see that they also have attitudes and struggles. Even a dead tree has exceptional beauty, because of its strength."
Visit BarbaraStrubellArt.com for more information and to see examples of Strubell's art. Like her page on facebook.com/barbara.Strubell.1 and follow @bcstrubell on Twitter.
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