Barbara Byers

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky
Date submitted: March 23, 2010
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

born 1952 Denver , Colorado
Home Albuquerque, New Mexico

I was born to fundamentalist Christian cult parents who are white supremacists. I grew up in Denver and escaped to New Mexico in 1982. Justice, art and travel are the engines that drive me.

Making things is the center of my life. I am a painter and builder of objects. Because of art, I am alive.

At the age of thirty-seven, I went to college to become a special education teacher. I am the only person in my biological family to graduate from college. The life of the mind is a threat to them. Intellectual activity is mistrusted and actively discouraged. For me, boredom is the great enemy of the people.

Teaching, for me, has been about making connections with young people and trying to help disabled kids learn to best realize themselves in a world that values them too little. I accompany them as they learn to negotiate with and share in the world. There is much art in that. Much creativity is required to make space for people to be themselves.

As a child, I was not nurtured but forced. As an adult, I oppose force and try to learn how to nurture myself, as well as all the people around me.

Starting in the Spring of 2010, I have the opportunity and desire to turn all of my working energy to art. As a painter and maker of wooden objects, I want to brighten the world around me. I want my art to be used, looked at and enjoyed every day. The process of making this art is life itself for me. That is to say, that I am most whole and alive when I am working.

The longer I live, the less clear the distinction between art and not art becomes. I know myself best as an artist who participates on many levels in a very complex world. Kindness is a value that comes to be more and more central to my life.

I have had the opportunity to travel to many places in the world and this has expanded me more than I know how to say. It is a real privilege to move outside one's comfort zone and realize that the world is not a small place. There are many ways to live and be in it. As a US American, I have found this knowledge to be lacking in our culture. There are so many ways of life. We know so little of them.

The great center of my life is my relationship with my partner Margaret Randall. Artists both, we have been in relationship, committed to each other's growth, for many years. The shared vision, love, trust and companionship have healed me into the able person I always longed to be. We face the world with courage and dignity every day. And each day we choose one another again. To have a great love in one's life is unspeakably beautiful and rich. I want to thank Margaret for my life.