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"Illia has immersed herself in the natural world, as her large, vigorously executed canvases intimately depict various flowering plants viewed at very close range."
Illia Barger comes from an artistic family. Her parents and siblings gained repute as musicians, painters, sculptors, and stonemasons. Barger grew up drawing. She attended Bennington College for two years and frequented the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she imitated works by masters. Barger's drawing portfolio helped her gain admission to Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.
After earning a B.F.A. at Cooper Union, Barger supported herself as a master grainer and mural painter. Over a 15-year period, she worked with American and international decorators to produce decorative finishes that transformed the appearance of plain wood and metal. It was this experience that made Barger accustomed to wielding a two-and-a-half-inch house-painting brush, which soon became her preferred painting instrument for canvases.
In the late 1990s, Barger was able to dedicate herself to painting canvases and murals full-time. She received a series of large mural commissions from the Percent for Arts program in New York and Philadelphia for commercial buildings, hotels, and restaurants, notably Underwater Sea at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in New York City, Degas' Dancers at the Hershey Hotel in Philadelphia, Continuum for the Arts Council of Princeton, and Winds of Change in Trenton.
Barger finds a freedom in painting large, and her canvases reflect this, typically ranging from five to six feet. Drawn to the natural world, Barger investigated the inner cores of fruits and flowers in one series of paintings. These paintings are large-scale and close-range. Barger's interest in the subject matter was piqued in the early 2000s when she served as a beekeeper on a farm and observed firsthand the attraction of bees to flower nectar. The focus of these paintings is less about the actual subject matter and more about the details, such as the architecture of the petals, the arabesque of curves, the idiosyncratic qualities of the flower, like color and nuance. Barger's paintings encourage the viewer to ponder the relationship between human and non-human organic forms and to consider the contradictions between a three-dimensional space and a two-dimensional surface.
Barger exhibits in New York and New Jersey, including solo exhibitions at the Ruth Morpeth Gallery in Hopewell and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. She is the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner (1999) Award, the Faber-Birren Color Award, A PS 122 Project Studio, and most recently was the Anne Reeves Artist in Residence at the Princeton Arts Council (2012).
Currently, Barger works and lives in the Lambertville, NJ area.
Illia Barger painting. Image courtesy of the artist.
Education and Training
Bennington College, Bennington, VT, 1979-1981
B.F.A., The Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY, 1985
Influences and Teachers
Rubin Kadish, Barger's sculpture and drawing teacher at Cooper Union, offered her encouragement during her tenure as a student.
Connection to Bucks County
Illia Barger's home and painting studio is located on the Delaware River in near Lambertville, NJ.
Her father, sculptor Raymond Granville Barger, has a large piece in the Michener Art Museum sculpture garden, called Transition. It was installed in 1989 and was a gift of the artist.
Her mother, Lilias Barger, was a composer, pianist, painter, chef and an overall "extraordinary person."
Nuance, Morpeth Gallery, Hopewell, NJ, 2012
Nectar, Broadway Windows, New York, NY, 2009
The Botany of Desire, Morpeth Gallery, Hopewell, NJ, 2008
Organics, The Gallery, Mercer County Community College, 2003
Succulence, Broadway Windows, New York, NY, 2003
L 'Origine du Monde, Riverrun Gallery, Lambertville, NJ, 2000
Sacrament, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, NY, 1999
Recent Works, Grange Gallery, Frenchtown, NJ, 1996
Ebb and Flow, Cheryl Hazan Gallery, New York, NY, 2013
Continuum, New Hope Arts, New Hope, PA, 2013
Four Notable New Jersey Artists, Open Space Gallery, Frenchtown, NJ, 2010
Dangerous Women #2, The Gallery, Mercer County Community College, 2007
Group Show, Bucks Gallery of Fine Art, Newtown, PA, 2007
The Red Show, Cheryl Hazan Gallery, New York, New York, 2006
The Flower Show, Cheryl Hazan Gallery, New York, New York, 2006
The Red Show, Cheryl Hazan Gallery, New York, New York, 2005
Absolute Secret, David McKee Gallery, New York, NY, 1998
P.S. 122 Annual Alumni Exhibition, P.S. 122 Gallery, New York, NY, 1998
New York Studio School Juried Art Exhibition, New York Studio School, David McKee, Juror, New York, NY, 1998
The 1998 National Competition, First Street Gallery, Edward Thorpe, Juror, New York, NY, 1998
East Village Artists, Cork Gallery, Avery Fischer Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY, 1998
Faber Birren National Color Award Show, Stamford Art Association, Conn. Jane Adlin, Dept. of 20th Cent. Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Juror, New York, NY, 1998
International Jazz Art Competition, New York, NY, 1998
Juried Annual Exhibition, New York Studio School, New York, NY, 1997
Recent Work, Houghton Gallery, Cooper Union, New York, NY, 1985
Anne Reeves Artist in Residence Award, 2012
Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, 1999
Faber Birren National Color Award, 1998
P.S. 122 Project Studio, 1997-1998
Continuum, 25 x 45 feet, The Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton, NJ, 2012
Poppies, 9 x 32 feet, Capital Health Systems, Hopewell, NJ, 2011
Penn's Grant, 8 x 24 feet, Pineville Tavern, Pineville, PA, 2010
Winds of Change, 33 x 65 feet, 23 South Warren Street Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), Trenton, NJ, 2006
Peaceable Kingdom, 40 x 8 feet, Hamilton Grill Room, Lambertville, NJ, 2001
Underwater Sea, 150 x 35 feet, 1% for Arts, The Brooklyn Army Terminal, commissioned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Brooklyn, NY, 1993
Degas' Dancers, 25 x 11 feet, Hershey Hotel, Center City, Philadelphia, PA, 1991
Yeltsin's Orchestra, 26 x 11 feet, Hershey Hotel, Center City, Philadelphia, PA, 1991
Titian Mural, 11 x 10 feet, Lambertville, NJ, 1990
Peaceable Kingdom, 8 x 40 feet, Lambertville, NJ, 1990