Barbara Ernst Prey’s career is thirty-five years young; her lifelong learning continues unabated. “We look and we learn and we incorporate and then we put our own mark, world view, and experience in to the work,” muses Prey. The artist continues to take the watercolor medium, which has an august role in the history of American art, to innovative—yet traditionally rooted—places. Looking as well as seeing, she searches out new vistas, compositions, and ideas in the landscapes and environments that are her home.
Her new painting for NASA, Shuttle Discovery: Return to Flight, was on an easel, waiting to be unveiled, when Barbara Ernst Prey discussed her life and work with Paul Lieberman,the roving cultural correspondent of the Los Angeles Times. This is drawn from that January 18, 2006 conversation at the Williams Club in New York.
Water. Fishermen. A life of the sea. These subjects, the focus of Barbara Ernst Prey’s most recent body of work, took on new meaning to the world during the weeks I first came to know these paintings shortly after a deadly tsunami slammed into the shores of South Asia in late December 2004.
Fortunate readers encounter books that even as they present “conclusions” have the encouraging ability to spur further thoughts leading to independent epiphanies. In a similarly paradoxical way, the unquestionably “finished”, indubitably major paintings of Barbara Ernst Prey never exhaust the pictorial possibilities of the landscape.