Barbara Ishikura

MFA ’18 Fine Arts 2D

Believing that figurative work has the ability to express identity by depicting the humor and pathos of the human condition, I use portraiture to explore the ongoing conflict of adhering to social norms across different social classes. I am interested in looking at the female body and how it navigates social spaces and the increasingly blurred boundaries between class and culture in contemporary society. The women in my artwork often have droopy breasts, and dangling cigarettes, and they display their unabashed sexuality while striking classical art historical poses. These women are drinking cheap beer in cans while surrounded by working-class paraphernalia. They also inhabit beautiful interiors with oversized bathtubs, lush plants, and fancy dogs suggesting a sophisticated lifestyle. I am interested in the female experience and my position as a contemporary female painter, taking back ownership of the female nude which was historically painted by male artists.

I grew up in a household where there was a scarcity of basic needs. I am a first-generation college graduate, and after graduating from university, I learned Japanese, and worked in Japan where I met my partner. My adult life has been a hybrid of my unrefined upbringing and the privileged multi-cultural spaces that I occupy today. Navigating these two contrasting worlds, I am interested in the “choice” to like something of bad taste when it is against one’s better judgment. In my paintings, I juxtapose objects from high and low culture in an attempt to illuminate the cultural hierarchies we create.

Barbara Ishikura received a BFA in 3D from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1985, an MA in Linguistics from Harvard University Extension in 1997, and an MFA in 2D from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2018. Ishikura will exhibit work at Trotter and Sholer Gallery in NYC in January 2023, and will have two 2-person exhibitions at LaMontagne Gallery in February 2023 and the Wilson Museum at SVAC in July 2023.

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