Barbara Navarro is a Franco-American multimedia artist who has been living in Paris since 1978. She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1950. Her large body of work spans over several decades and has been informed and inspired by her voyages to West Africa, as well as her time spent living among the Yanomami people in the Amazon Rainforest of Venezuela and Brazil.
Barbara first acquired her knowledge of vegetal pigments while visiting the Dogon people of Mali. There, she studied the techniques of traditional “Bogolan” painting. The pigments used are made from a combination of plants that are dried, crushed and then mixed with mud. After mixing, the pigments are then ready to be applied to canvas that has been dyed an ochre color with boiled bark from the wolo tree.
Time spent in Venezuela and in Brazil living among the Yanomami people of the rainforest has also made a huge impact on Barbara’s work. There, she created paintings using a mixture of acrylic colors and roucou, which is the plant-based pigment used by the Yanomami for painting on shamanic ritual implements, as well as body painting.
These works were created on roughly woven canvas prepared with acrylic medium then textured with a mixture of sand from a nearby riverbank and lava. The canvas is easily rolled so that it could be and transported on expeditions into the Amazon.
Rahara (Mythical River Serpent), 100cm x 75cm.
Barbara’s concern for the ongoing devastation of the Amazon also inspired her most recent sculptures, installations and film projects. Since 2005, she has been working on a performance and film project titled ‘Fire Sculpture’ which is, according to Barbara, intended to bring “urgent attention to the Rainforest and the indigenous cultures that it sustains.”
As a protest against the Amazon’s ongoing destruction, Barbara has been publicly burning her totemic sculptures. While these sculptural works were first intended to “seek to express the universality of the shamanic visions of the Yanomami,” the performances in which these structures are set ablaze symbolize the “degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival.”
I encourage you to check out Barbara’s website and the following links for even more on her expansive body of work. There is so much to see!
Lisa K. Salerno is an Art Writer with the London-based publication Niji Magazine, and a regular Art Columnist at Inigo Online. Her art and writing has also been featured in the Autism Speaks website, the Artful Vagabond, The Connecticut River Review and in several other online and print publications.