barbara downs



I work in multiple mediums with little allegiance to specific subject matter, though my bodies of work are conceptually and aesthetically connected. While assembling and organizing visual information and materials, I employ protective or aversive shielding of precious internal information.

My work involves real and vigorous physical action: scraping, erasing, nailing, welding. This physicality brings out an “object-ness” in each piece.

I sense that this object—this painting or sculpture or drawing—is both familiar to me and unknowable at the same time. It excites the periphery of my consciousness and oscillates in that place where logic, emotion and instinct collide. This purposeful ambiguity invites the viewer to actively complete the piece by finding personal meaning in it.


Born in Virginia, Barbara Downs now lives in Santa Cruz, California. In 1983 she earned her BA at UC Santa Cruz in studio art, focusing on traditional lithography on limestone.

During this time, she made her living as a draftsperson, doing electro-mechanical drawings on vellum, and later in AutoCAD. Among other jobs, she did mechanical design and drafting for an early private rocket company. Her drafting background exerts an ongoing influence in her art, in ways both mundane and profound.

When her daughter was born with serious and ongoing medical conditions, Barbara’s appreciation of life’s mysteries was greatly enriched; eventually she was able to turn her attention towards the inward experience created by such trauma and redemption.

Barbara’s art now spans multiple mediums including painting, drawing, encaustic and sculpture. She has shown regionally and nationally, and will be exhibiting at Palazzo Mora in conjunction with the Venice Biennale in the summer of 2019. Her work is included in the collection of the University of California as well as many corporate and private collections.

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