We were introduced to the strangely beautiful paintings of AT reader Barbara Kleinhans several months ago on a visit to the folk furniture haven Zonal in Hayes Valley.
Barbara's paintings take a while to come into focus. At first glance they seem fully abstract and formal, with some of the coldness that those words usually conjure. But look longer and they start to reveal underlying stories (Note; you may get it right off the bat if you're from Wisconsin.)
These minimalist abstract pieces draw from memories of growing up in that state, with "big skies and lots of cows." With a delicate and muted palette of whites, blacks, and neutrals, Barbara depicts the plaintive beauty of her childhood's distant horizons, criss-crossing fences, and open skies. (Zonal still has some of these works, with some small pieces priced from $80 to $130.)
Barbara is also working on a more cheerful series that she refers to as studies in balance. These paintings play with the composition of formal shapes, juxtoposing warmly-hued lotus petals and teardrops against familiar textured fields of white, black, and gold. All that texture is the result of a unique painting style that favors color washes and palette knives over more conventional brushes. Because Barbara uses acrylics, she's able to achieve more interesting layering effects this way.
Several of the balance study paintings are included in the (now) annual Tiny exhibit at Studio Gallery on Polk St. (Tiny runs through December 24th. Everything is small and is under $200.) Any pieces that are not currently at a gallery or retailer can be purchased directly through Barbara; sizes and prices are on her website.