Swept Away...a tangent

Hurricane Irma passed through St. Petersburg during the early morning hours of September 11, 2017. I was awake with my family, listening to the sound of the wind's push and pull at the windows, while outside the trees bore the storm as best they could and as their roots and branches would allow. The lights flickered, but by some miracle, we retained power throughout the night. The eye moved past us at just about 20 miles to the east, sparing our city from the brunt of the storm - a blessing for which I am still giving thanks.

The days leading up to the storm saw the city's population in a caution-turned-frenzy type of preparation. Everything was put on hold, and the priority became to secure water, food, and our homes. The possibility that we could face devastation became a real threat. It was a time to identify which possessions were most important and resign myself to the idea of letting go of everything else.

As a consequence, my current art projects were set aside. And, in order to move forward, I am now paying respect to the event and sharing some of the thoughts which were stirred during the past two weeks. I typed the words onto a self portrait. With a typewriter. Yes, those still do exist. And who doesn't love a few deep thoughts? :)

I hope you and yours fared well. At the end of the day, all we have is each other.


Stick with what you love



The first time I saw San Francisco was from the window of an airplane. Thick clouds hung suspended over the city and above them was bright blue sky. When I walked out of the airport, the crisp, cool air was so refreshing from the humid summer I had left behind in Mississippi. It was September 2011, and I was there to explore the coastline. I drove the Pacific Coast Highway over the course of a week and photographed the landscape as I traveled. The photos from that trip were the start of a series of large-scale paintings which I would spend the next six years creating.

During my time in California, I fell in love with the rugged coastline, the steep and immense views, the sound of the crashing waves, the deep color of the water, and especially the fog. The fog quiets the atmosphere and softens appearances. It became a fascination of mine to represent the fog as I had experienced it.

It took years to finish all five of the paintings I set out to create because, well, life takes its turns. But my focus kept returning to this work and to my goal of seeing them completed and exhibited together. And, as of the past month, I am proud to say that I have finished the fifth painting, the one shown here. And if that weren't enough to celebrate, I have also come upon an opportunity to exhibit the complete series through October.

Pictured below is "Big Sur II," as seen in the spacious and modern lobby of the Hermitage Apartment Homes at 151 7th Street South in St. Petersburg. Join me at the reception to toast this milestone in my journey and see the paintings in person.

I look forward to creating more images of the places I love. Thanks to Creative Pinellas, the Morean Arts Center, and the Hermitage for helping to make this possible.


The role of an artist...a psychological perspective

Art is more than paint on canvas. Art is a way of life. How we greet each day, how we express the many ideas and emotions within us, and how we choose to spend time, all work together to sculpt our personal story on earth. So, in a way, we, as humans, are all artists. But not all humans call themselves artists, so what is it about me that drives me to create paintings and to identify as an artist?

In college I took a psychology course called 'Theories of the Creative Process.' In it, we studied writings by Sigmund Freud. In a work titled "Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis" he claims that an artist "makes it possible for other people once more to derive consolation and alleviation from their own sources of pleasure in their unconscious which have become inaccessible to them" (468). He suggests that artists, by creating a work of art, give their audience a door through which to access repressed or unexpressed ideas. 

Consider the Rorschach tests, also known as inkblot tests. Ambiguous images of bilaterally symmetrical inkblots are shown to the viewer who then describes what comes to mind. The test is designed to reveal the character traits and personality of the viewer. Here is an example:

One of the ten Rorschach ink blots (source: Wikipedia)

One of the ten Rorschach ink blots (source: Wikipedia)


The style which I have developed, called Abstract Precisionism, uses ambiguous forms and designs to compose a larger, unambiguous whole. The interpretation of the forms and designs can be personal to each viewer, and in a way, opens a door for the viewer to learn about his or her own identity. So, while we are all artists of life, working artists serve by providing a means through which the audience can shine light on the depths of their own minds.

The painting shown here is called "Monterey." It is part of my large scale California series, sizing in at 4' x 5'. There is so much to be found in this painting. It is one of the more complex pieces I have done. In the cropped fragment below the main image, I see a woman who is reaching for a distant verson of herself, either smaller or in the past. What do you see?


Elizabeth Barenis

Born and raised in the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta, Elizabeth Barenis began painting at a very early age. Her parents, who owned a music store, nourished Elizabeth's creative spirit by enrolling her in private art lessons during childhood. Elizabeth completed high school at the Mississippi School for Math and Science, where, although math and science were the focus, she still received a painting award. Art continued to have a presence in her life throughout her college years at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she studied many subjects and techniques, including modern physics and analog photography. In 2004, after graduation and a summer at the Chautauqua Institute for Art, Elizabeth focused her efforts primarily on painting. Since then, she has been working to refine her style and develop her artistic career. She has been living and working in St. Petersburg since 2015.

Elizabeth's subject matter is grounded in reality as it is derived from her photography. She describes her style as “Abstract Precisionism,” through which she generalizes forms using clean and precise lines. This technique, when observed closely, allows the viewer to connect the forms and discover a story, similar to finding shapes in the clouds. Yet from a distance, the distinct lines become less apparent, and the viewer can experience the feeling of the moment as a whole. Up close, it appears that everything is separate and endless stories abound. But from a more distant perspective, we see that each individual shape composes a greater whole and that there is but one story – that of connectedness. With the Emerging Artist Grant, Elizabeth plans to continue her current work of large scale California landscapes while also devoting time to gaining perspective through museum visits, discovering new inspiration through traveling, exhibiting in galleries when possible, and exploring new and grander ways to express the beauty of life through painting.