Art as a Life Journey

For visual artist Barbara Barrett life journey began in Fresno, California,  where she was born to John and Oleta Little-Heart Pilakowski.  As a toddler she grew up in Caliola, California, a residential settlement for the employees of Shell Oil.  Along side oil, the family lived in the agribusiness capital the United States. Barbara’s world was alive with the wild West’s critters.  Snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and tumble occupied her interests and were no strangers to anyone’s life in the western San Joaquin valley of California.

As train tracks were laid, and a train station established in Coalinga California, the residence of Caliola all moved; the tiny settlement ceased to exist.  In Coalinga, Barbara attended elementary and high school and her parents lived much of their life.  Life in Coalinga was very much the pinnacle of small town America.  Yet Barbara interests were more keen on exploring the scrub brush and rolling hills around Coalinga.

Eager to explore beyond her horizons, Barrett headed east to New Jersey to attend College of St. Elizabeth.  Her interest in art grew during a freshman figure drawing class.  But it became clear, a catholic college was not academically appropriate, when her instructor tore out the sketches of masterworks depicting nude figures from her sketchbook.

Copyright ©2017 Barbara C. Barrett.  All rights reserved
Athena, 2009 Prismacolor and collage on paper 40” x 32”

Returning West, Barbara continued her education at California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC), recently renamed California College of the Arts (CCA), in Oakland, California.  Here she studied under some of California’s finest artists including, Robert Becktle and Arthur Okamura.  Barrett developed a deep passionate for the process of art making.  She learned that great art is born through a great understanding of process and discipline.  And when Okamura suggested that the subject of her art be what she knew, Barbara understood her subject. Drawing on her youth’s passion, the natural world around her, Barbara embarked on a life of disciplined practice and mastery in drawing, painting and print making.

As a professional artist Barbara has enjoyed the patronage of collectors and museums worldwide. Extensive holdings of her work can be found in private collections such as the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant collections, California State University, Fresno, the Fresno Art Museum and many private collections. Barbara Barrett has undertaken numerous commissions from companies as diverse as Regency Bank, Kaiser Permanente and the Fujico Company in Nagoya, Japan. She has enjoyed solo exhibitions at the Monterey Museum of Art and the Fresno Art Museum and over 40 gallery exhibitions in the major cities of the West. Her exhibitions have been favorably reviewed in California publications including The Fresno Bee and The Monterey Peninsula Herald. She has contributed artwork to social service agencies such as the Ronald McDonald House in Fresno California and to many cultural and social service organization’s fund-raising events. Barbara Barrett maintains an active studio commitment and continues to enjoy the interest and support of collectors.

A Career in the Arts

An educator, professional artist and community volunteer for over four decades: Barbara Barrett began a lifelong career in the arts as an educator in the Peace Corps, teaching in Liberia, Africa along with her…. Read More >