Barbie Perry

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?

 In-process piece in Barbie's studio at the Prairie Center of the Arts.

In-process piece in Barbie's studio at the Prairie Center of the Arts.

Barbie: My art is contemporary, mostly abstract, occasionally autobiographical. Other times it is completely experimental in a new process or medium.

Project 1612: When did you start taking yourself seriously as an artist?

Barbie: I am new to the physical process of art-making. In 2014, I began creating colorful abstract and textural compositions using unaltered digital photography. By 2016, I had developed enough confidence to make the transition to creating work with my hands. I liken myself to a sophomore in college. This seems to work in freeing me mentally to continually explore several mediums. I may, at some point, decide upon and stick to a particular medium, yet I am loving the discovery process of determining which mediums and especially processes I am loving best. Currently, I am digging into silkscreen monoprints. I have many experiments and projects planned for the next 12 months culminating in a two-person show, in October of 2019, with Sarah Nesbit in Peoria. 

 Barbie showing a newer piece while standing in her studio.

Barbie showing a newer piece while standing in her studio.

Project 1612: What drives your practice? 

Barbie: I have a weird kind of need to do it. I think about art every day. I dream about projects and compositions. My life is steeped in art. I look, see and think about my world through this lens. It’s a pleasant way to live.

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

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Barbie: Asking for help in how to do something. One of my personal challenges is letting down my guard to trust others to not think less of me because I do not know how to do something, or that they don’t mind giving of their time to teach me. At a young age, I strove to be completely independent. I still work on embracing asking for help from others and tamp down the feeling I should be figuring it out on my own and not “bothering” others. Another challenge has been confidence in my work. Having a studio in an open environment has been critical and helping me to become less sensitive to others just seeing my work, much less in getting critiqued or feedback. I work on building compromise and relationship with both my inner critic (where everything is s***) and in my inner rebel’s defensiveness (I don't give a f*** what you think.) I know these are protective, extreme, unrealistic and untruthful perspectives that are not helpful. My reality just lies somewhere on that continuum, and really much closer to average than I care to admit.

Project 1612: What is your current work about?

 Dioramas of significant rooms in Barbie's adult life hanging on her studio wall.

Dioramas of significant rooms in Barbie's adult life hanging on her studio wall.

Barbie: I am currently working on two major bodies of work. The first is experimentation with paper and silkscreen monoprints, while learning the boundaries and process of printmaking. The second is work using dioramas to depict significant rooms in my adult life. These are dealing with mental illness, decision making, struggle, opportunity, accepting help, overcoming and creating a successful life. 

Project 1612: How long has your studio been at the Prairie Center of the Arts? And can you tell us about your role at the PCA? 

Barbie: I have occupied my studio at Prairie Center of the Arts in the Warehouse District since March of 2017. The Prairie Center accepted me into a 6-month residency the year prior, yet, my father became very ill and passed away in September of that year. Fortunately, Joe and Michele Richey gave me time to grieve until I was ready to move forward. I accepted their invitation for my residency. I have now been here for nearly a year and a half. My nature is to take care of my surroundings and integrate the people who intersect with my life. I help with activities and community building which has resulted in a good working relationship. I am a volunteer.

 Barbie's work table filled with artwork, newspaper clippings, and notes and artwork from other artists.

Barbie's work table filled with artwork, newspaper clippings, and notes and artwork from other artists.

Project 1612: You also just started an arts meeting called ‘The Bimonthlies.’ What is the purpose of this meeting? 

 Barbie's desk with knock-knacks and gifts from artists.

Barbie's desk with knock-knacks and gifts from artists.

Barbie: The Bimonthlies is to provide a platform for the many visual arts organizations, groups, and galleries, educators, and artists in our region. We come for an hour meeting every other month to learn about and further integrate with each other. It was created with enthusiasm and vision of one of the co-creators of Project 1612, Jessica Bingham. Jess and I pitched to Kate Schureman of the Peoria Riverfront Museum and Jenn Gordon of ArtsPartners of Central Illinois who also enthusiastically came on board to explore the possibilities. The meetings are held at the Peoria Riverfront Museum and ArtsPartners assists with promotion of the event. 

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Barbie: Be fearless. Step out of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with people who are positive, trustworthy, and motivated. I practice defining what I want to create in my life and then put together a loose strategy of how to achieve that. Then, with risk and persistence, I pursue those goals. Another key component to success is to assist others in the pursuit of their goals. This is where I learn a great deal about art and life. 

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

Barbie: I believe the Arts community in Central Illinois is strong and vibrant. Frankly, there is so much to do and participate in that it is impossible to do it all. And this is just talking about the visual arts, it does not include the other thriving Arts happening in our area. 

However, I also see a need for community building and higher levels of cooperation between our artists and arts organizations. These stronger relationships and alliances are what will bring our Region to the next level as a destination for the Arts. We have done a really good job of creating a foundation for the arts. However, my professional experience in community and tourism development tells me is that we collectively need to change our strategy and build momentum move forward. Our strategy needs to focus our activities on becoming a larger destination or we will continue to perform only foundational results. I believe we have the resources, talent, and people to get there. We just need to do it together. 

Of importance is that incredibly diverse offerings we have: museum, park district, retail, ArtsPartners, Heartbreaker Studio, Project 1612, The Peoria Art Guild, Persimmon Lofts rts and events, Collecture, Prairie Center of the Arts, Illinois Art League and the other awesome art organizations, Bradley University, Illinois Central College, a vibrant First Friday started up by CIAO and the spinoffs throughout the month. I could go on and on about the good stuff happening here the incredible, wonderful artists and supporters we have here. It’s a really good time to be into art in Central Illinois.

 Barbie standing in her art-filled studio.

Barbie standing in her art-filled studio.

Barbie Perry is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More of her work can be found on here