Artist fell for magic of painting as a teen

Georgia Temple
Entertainment Editor
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Painting has "always been this magical kind of quest" for artist Barry Masteller.

"I was just smitten by the magic of it -- this tactile material you could spread around and make things happen," Masteller said of completing his first oil painting when he was a teenager. "It knocked me out. I remember saying what I wanted to be in life was an artist."

This native Californian has worked as an artist while doing other things, including running his own gallery that represented other artists, working in art restoration and conservation and creating a line of hand-carved, gold-leaf period frames. He credits such electives in school as wood shop and metal shop as "shaping" him as an artist. "It allowed me to think more creatively and to think of myself as a creative person."

Since 1995, he has painted full time.

His studio and home outside San Francisco are surrounded by trees. This October the rain and wind toppled a 75-year-old oak. The tree hit both of his cars that were parked in the driveway.

The cars are being repaired. The tree is gone forever.

"It was a real centerpiece," Masteller said of the oak. "It's like losing an old friend. There are two or three thousand of them on my property. That was the oldest one.

"We have five acres completely covered with oak trees. And the house in the middle of them all. It's on a hillside. You walk through the trees to get to it. There's a real spiritual connection with trees especially for me. I built my studio in such a way that no tree was sacrificed."

Paintings from his Boulevard series and his Earth and Sky series are included in the exhibit at the Museum, 1705 W. Missouri Ave, and may be viewed Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m..

"I think I get most of it right out of my head," Masteller said of his subject matter. "I tend to think of myself more as a surrealist or abstract painter although most of my paintings are representational subject matter. But it's the process of painting, of manipulating the material. It so happens the work comes out representational, it's really more abstract based. If you look at the surfaces, they are very lively, loose brush work, glazing and wiping away. It's less about making something pictorial than it is about manipulating the material."

Upon entering the Here and Now Gallery at the Museum of the Southwest, the paintings encourage the visitor to draw closer. Those in the Earth and Sky series speak in shimmering lights and meditating shadows. Those in the Boulevard series whisper of hushed streets, lighted encounters and silhouetted forms.

"I think painting has always been a language," Masteller said. "Sometimes they are words, and all these words are making up paragraphs, and the paragraphs make up a story.

"I'm continually amazed when I finish a piece. It's one experience to paint it, and another experience to sit back and study it. There's always this kind of quest for that magic and that language and putting the two together. There's just this story that takes place."

         All text and images contained on this site copyright:  Barry Masteller 2012