“My goal is to help get you out there for the world to see and appreciate.”
– John, email to Barbara Sparhawk 09/28/2012
Vol I of Barbara’s biography is now complete. CHRONOLOGY (108 pages, cover image above) is an annotated beginning-to-end timeline of her life told entirely in her own words. Approximately 80% of the material is previously unpublished.
I am delighted to offer bound copies of CHRONOLOGY free of charge to close friends and acquaintances while supplies last. Books will be mailed directly from the publisher and usually take 2-3 weeks for delivery.
If interested, please submit your request – limit of one per individual; subject heading should be “Barbara’s Biography” or something similar – along with a mailing address to:
John Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE PREFACE below provides an overview of this ongoing project. Expect more volumes in the near future.
Years ago on a social media site I longingly noted that if ever there were a biography yet unwritten I would love to read, it would be Barbara Sparhawk’s. Little did I realize one day I would end up writing it myself.
Well, I suppose technically this is Barbara’s autobiography, told almost exclusively in her own words from an extensive email correspondence compiled and edited with her permission and blessings.
Ours was a “pen-pal” relationship that quickly blossomed into something deeper and avalanched into an exchange of nearly three-quarters of a million words. Barbara and I frequently discussed the need to document her life and work but it wasn’t until after she died that I was able to sift and extract, select and organize her observations and insights and memories and reflections into the discrete chunks which comprise this effort:
- Vol I: A biographical CHRONOLOGY of her life
- Vol II: A collection of CONVERSATIONS about Art and Life
- Vol III: A RETROSPECTIVE portfolio of her paintings
In correspondence Barbara was not consciously crafting her own biography, but she delighted in sharing narrative recollections vividly imagined and richly described, vignettes and snippets and bon mots that I have been privileged to mosaic into a remarkable CHRONOLOGY. Her unique style of writing, which never plods or disappoints, is perhaps best described as a kind of muscular prose that is unafraid to weep.
As an artist Barbara was kindled from within by creative passion. She put not just words to paper and pigment to canvas, she lived and breathed the avant-garde role of cultural explorer, embracing lifestyles as varied as speechwriter/press secretary to Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro in New York to living out of her car and painting plein air on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur, California. She sought out the new and the different, plunged into and absorbed and learned from each experience, and in the riveting collected reflections and CONVERSATIONS one can almost hear the Brooklyn accent as she constantly exclaims: “What a life I live!”.
Barbara’s oeuvre will forever be flawed and incomplete. Incomplete because most of her early canvases fledged and dispersed without documentation. Flawed because she was admittedly a poor photographer. As a photog myself, I weep at the injustice of so many of her digital snaps being out of focus, doubly tragic because as a self-described “expressionist” artist – i.e., fond of distortion and exaggeration – there is no way of telling whether an image is inadvertently fuzzy or if the original painting was stylistically blurred. The final vexation like salt on a wound is that most extant images are copies uploaded to social media and hence low resolution, thumbnail sized. Barbara’s visual legacy is thus inherently at risk but Photoshop has been enormously kind to her images in RETROSPECTIVE.
This closing the gallery and being near death was pretty unsettling, still so. I’m packing and handling and examining the work of a lifetime and was pretty sure that if dead on the spot most of it would be thrown away or casually stuffed somewhere, but gone and that’s horrifying. Still so. What does one do? It’s not right, not what I expected, and it takes me by surprise. Do I sell, gift, destroy what’s in hand? Do I shrug it au revoir? This needs some answering. Some book making at least, some documenting. I know I’ve had quite a life, and it apparently serves in some ways to inspire others which is very moving to me, so it should not be a life tempest-borne to oblivion. Yet look how fast we all vanish, even the most flamboyant, important, precious to any life, gone so fast.
This posthumous account of Barbara’s life and work is an attempt, futile or not, to resurrect a life “tempest-borne to oblivion.” Readers will delightfully discover, I submit, that Barbara’s was:
- A life lived on the edge where the risks are greater but the rewards are priceless.
- A life spent saying ‘no’ to compromise and ‘yes’ to distant horizons.
- A life bristling with the ‘courage to be’ and practiced in the art of joyful engagement.
Nearing the end Barbara wrote:
I have a kind of vague hope to organize all my work and set things in order but I don’t know if I’ll make it, though I have felt more lively and that I just might live to 100. Most of my relatives made it into their nineties. I certainly ought to outlive the bastards.
She did not outlive the bastards. In the last four years of her life Barbara underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for brain tumors, was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer, and fell and broke her hip. She died at age 74 in 2018.
All people disappear, as Barbara noted above, no exceptions. She was not widely known in life, and likely that will not change now she’s gone. I suspect not more than a handful will stumble across this biography. And that’s okay. I compiled and edited it for Barbara.
Here it is, kiddo. I miss you.