Barbara Cole Featured In Creators Vancouver

Toronto-based artist Barbara Cole about her newest series, Surfacing. This series is fueled by Cole's personal history, and the ethereal figures shown are a celebration of power of will and strength to overcome. Read more below.


Creatives Vancouver, August 2019 

Barbara Cole

i. I work as an emotional conduit.

ii. I do this creative work because:
This is how I express myself best. Creating art has changed my life and has allowed me to open up in ways I didn’t know possible.

iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are:
Stubbornness. I keep trying until I figure it out. This can take years on some projects but I won’t stop until I get the project as close as possible to what I imagined it to be.

iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:
Finances. Photography is expensive and creating pictures with people means you are hiring and paying a team. That’s why I’m so grateful to have such good galleries. Sales allow me to continue to create. There are good times and bad and you need to have a good plan to be able to weather this.

v. Creative childhood hobbies:
Handmade birthday cards!

vi. Other creators who inspire you:
David Hockney, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Heinrich Kuhn, Deborah Turbeville, Sarah Moon, Lucien Freud, Margrethe Mather, Paolo Roversi and the list is always growing.

vii. Training that has helped me in this career:
Inspiration is the best trainer and motivation is the driving force to learn a new skill. Also, I’m quite persistent and a hard worker, which has lead to some of my strongest series.

viii. A common trap that can hurt people in this career:
Try to listen to your own heart rather than people – no matter how well-meaning – who give you the best “advice.” Take it with a grain of salt and at the end of the day, do what you feel is best.

ix. Some proud career moments:
Fortunately, there have been many moments in my career that stand out. Throughout my journey as an artist, I have teamed up with some incredible organizations. Most recently, I have been working with  Bell Let’s Talk and the Campaign to Change Direction to further their initiatives in spreading awareness and de-stigmatizing mental health issues through my art. I have also proudly become a “clean water ambassador” for SWIMDRINKFISH– a local group helping to protect our water from plastics and pollution. Since the majority of my work utilizes water, this foundation is especially near and dear to me.

On more personal endeavours: in 1995, I participated in a touring museum exhibition about Breast Cancer called Survivors in Search of a Voice: The Art of Courage, Centre. It meant a lot to me because my dear friend and aunt had just succumbed to the disease. Subsequently, I was commissioned by the M. Lau Breast Cancer Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital to place my art in their space.

In 2005, I was invited to exhibit my underwater series Underworld, in Tokyo, Japan at the Canadian Embassy and then after that at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC. And, in 2008, I won the Grand Prix, le 6ème Festival International de la Photographie de Mode, in Cannes, France.

Director, Bob Barrett, created a half hour documentary  about my underwater practice called  Snapshot: The Art of Photography which has run multiple times on Art TV, TVO, and the Knowledge Network.

x. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:
Develop your own style. It is an over-crowded field and it’s so important to be an originator.

xi. A professional goal I have for the future:
I would love to continue to make good work and use my position to work as a spokesperson for mental health. It’s such an invasive problem and it’s so hidden. Why, I ask you, do people feel comfortable sharing the details of their kidney stones, yet we are still so ashamed to speak about our own mental health problems? We mustn’t be ashamed of reaching out for help – whether talking to a friend or a professional. It’s okay. That’s the message I need to get out there. I’ve struggled with depression all my life and yet I’ve also managed to carve out a decent career. Working in the arts has helped me to recover.

xii. If you want to see my work, go to:
For more information, visit: September Exhibit – Bau-xi Toronto  @barbaracoleart



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