WARM Critique Notes

May 14, 2014


Critical Response


Artist: Barbara Bridges

Facilitator: Jill Waterhouse

Responders comments have bullets.
Artist Comments are in Italics.



Responders examine the work in silence.


The Artist introduces the work.

Jill has helped me figure out what I am doing and where I want to go. Jill has helped me see myself as a social practice artist. For me that means that I am creating these objects to generate social dialogue that leads to social change.


As a Group

Statement of meaning

What moves you? What about the work is meaningful?

  • Found objects from the water – I grew up on water and we live in a state with lots of water
  • Appear woven, draping, gravity bound & wet, pounded nails – each of those is the result of physical activity
  • The richness of found objects. Your deep south trip — it says something about the environment vs the visual experience
  • It says a lot to me about the earth as well as the water and our relationship to it.
  • Even before I touched it, it felt tactile.
  • I could hear Barbara’s necklace, I knew the maker was here
  • Since our bodies are high percentages of water, it made me think about the high proportions of pollutants in the water… circle of life
  • Getting to the essence of an object by adding paint, nails, color
  • The compilation and organization was striking
  • Taking pieces that individually are not beautiful, but together they are beautiful.
  • Social activism does not need to be harsh, it can be beautiful and strong
  • Gathering … curating …. creating meaning
  • The universality of it. I could imagine going on a walk – MN, France, wherever – and finding objects like this.
  • It makes me angry when I think about people polluting the water
  • The work brings back memories; it also uses pieces that have been discarded.
  • They evoke a deep emotional reaction in me. These pieces – the wood, the iron, the water – have been here longer than me. It gets at a primal part in me.



Artist as questioner

If you were describing my work to a friend, what style would you identify?

  • Heavily textured – some from nature, some the artist has added
  • Hand-made
  • You put objects together in a way that triggers emotions
  • Treasure hunt – found treasure objects
  • Disparate found objects juxtaposed to create new meaning such as the wood wrapped in plastic
  • Assemblage…. with purpose. It’s the social activism piece that makes it come together in a meaningful way
  • Tribal
  • I would wear that as a necklace (if it was smaller).
  • Narrative
  • Embellished


Pricing – Jill encouraged me to price my pieces. How do you deal with the emotional aspects of selling your work? I “breathe” when people walk away. My purpose is to have these pieces make buzz, get people talking.

  • When it goes to the right home, it feels right. That’s the cycle … and when pieces are bought, I can go back and make more.
  • If you’re attached to a particular piece, it’s OK to have a higher price
  • We need to give it to the community, let it go out.
  • Jill – maybe hand onto the majority of the work for awhile till you know what to do with it, sell a few pieces.
  • I’ve kept the pieces that were pivotal in my process, then after a while, I was good with letting us go.


I am committed to connecting to the uninformed viewer. What are some strategies to help get uninformed viewers to engage with the topic? How do I empower the general public?

  • What do you mean by encouraging people to make art?

I’m going to ask people at Art-A-Whirl to make art, even put it on a piece I have created. I want them to feel the power of creation.

  • It sounds like you’re looking at community & collaboration.
  • It’s called a campaign and it has many facets – Facebook, Pinterest, partnering & talking with other people


I would really like honest responses to this. What are your reactions to me using commercial strategies to getting the work out? Can I play in both worlds?

  • Why do you care? Because I want to play with the big boys – and I’m sure many are boys. I see myself as a serious maker and I want to have credibility n those circles.

I was approached by Monsanto. It was an ethical dilemma. People who know me know that I will do what I do, getting funded does not compromise the ethical foundations of what I do but for people who do not know me…the project will seem compromised.

  • Jill – the big boys in art do everything in their power to get to that power arena.
  • Do what you do – don’t look back



Neutral questions from responders

  • What is the role of aesthetics in your practice?

I grew up on the coast of Maine…. this hits all my aesthetic buttons.

  • How much do you undo?

Jill has put it to me – if it’s not working, take it off, undo it. Now, I am able to do that more. I couldn’t make the top work [Lake Superior piece]. I did it with green wire, but that didn’t work; I redid it.

  • How do you conceptualize it? Frame it?

The pieces for each piece all come from the identified place.

  • I go into the boatyards and ask if I can collect their trash, I talk to fisherman.

I do sometimes sketch it out in advance.

  • The pounding, the twisting, all that is my meditation. I get completely engrossed in it. I can’t do that in sitting meditation, but I can do it in my work.
  • I thought I was done collecting from the beach when I left Maine, but now I love the beaches in Superior and everywhere else. I create the pieces where I collect them and talk to people.
  • I gather the wood and sort it into piles. I know each piece, where I picked it up, the story behind it.



Permissioned Opinions

  • Ihave a comment. The nails reminded me of African VooDoo doll at the MiA.
  • Yes, that is my favorite piece at the MIA. It also plays out as record-keeping. The traditions are going away in our culture, we’re losing traditions. This is a record of what’s happened to me over the past 20 years.
  • I have an opinion about your questions about being taken seriously as an artist.

Some people say, “Anyone could do that – I could do that.”

  • The bigger piece is really exciting, it pushes me… there’s a lot going on. I want to see more big pieces.

The challenge to that is my age. I have to have my son help me move the big pieces.[laughter]

  • I have an opinion about the facets – might you push yourself more into embracing more faceted aspects?

I’m definitely attracted to 3-dimensonal work, but it’s harder to create that on the move. Maybe this is an installation.

  • I have an opinion about the painting – I love your painting, each feels whole and complete. Even without the extra pieces / notes, it would still feel complete
  • I have an opinion about the emotions – the love, the anger that people don’t understand the work.
  • I try to put something naughty in each one, something that produces cognitive dissonance
  • The big piece – I really love it, the rope, the metal, the details, I feel I could keep looing at it and looking at it. Even the bottle on the beach that could be so ugly

There’s something really satisfying when I figure out how to make it work. To be able to do it with trash is even more powerful, to get that out of the water. The research is appalling. Lake Superior is the biggest freshwater surface in the world, but we shouldn’t eat the fish more than once a month, not at all for pregnant women, children. I want my work to make a difference.