Philly legend, Germantown neighbor, citizen of the world.
Barbara Bullock is a Philadelphia painter, collagist, printmaker, and soft sculptor with an esteemed career spanning almost 60 years, and continuing to this day. Her latest show, “Fearless Vision” at Woodmere Art Museum was not only visually stunning but so fresh, so modern, so full of vim and exuberance it’s hard to believe the artist turned 85 last November.
Born in 1938, Bullock grew up in North Philadelphia on Newkirk Street, where her family belonged to Most Precious Blood Catholic Church. This striking name captivated the young girl, and it seemed sadly fitting when violence came to their neighborhood with the murders of young Black men, and the cries of anguished mothers losing their sons senselessly to the streets.
Throughout her life, Bullock has responded to tragedies by creating deeply visceral art. There’s a piece simply titled “George Floyd” and another named “Trayvon Martin, Most Precious Blood” whose vivid red-and-black-painted paper folds create two broken hearts intertwined (the sculpture is now a part of Woodmere’s permanent collection).
In addition to addressing police brutality, her work has spoken to the AIDS crisis, Hurricane Katrina, and the Pandemic. Just don’t ask her what, exactly, each piece is trying to say. It’s personal — for the artist, and also for everyone on the receiving end. Bullock would much rather talk about her art as a process, and the influences she draws on to create.
Bullock began taking classes at Fleischer Art Memorial when she was just a kid, later majoring in commercial art at Hussain School of Art. By the 1970’s she was art director at Ife Ife Black Humanitarian Center in North Philly, where she encountered African dance and drumming, and banded together with other gifted artists at the time in a burgeoning Black Arts movement.
Her work has been shown and collected by prestigious museums and galleries throughout the country, including PAFA, AAMP, Philly Art Alliance, Morris Museum, Portland Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Countless commuters enjoy her vibrant installations at PHL Airport and the El Station at 46th street.
Bullock was inspired, herself, to travel the African Diaspora, enriching her art with new techniques, materials, symbols, perspectives, and impressions from other cultures and communities. Today, she lives in Germantown but famously prefers to think of herself as a global citizen, with a place anywhere in the world she cares to be. Bullock remains a key Philadelphia artist and educator, and an incomparable contributor to the city’s African American creative community.
🎨🖌️ IN THE GALLERY 🖼️🌟
Snapshots of stand-outs from Barbara Bullock’s Woodmere show, from Andrea Kirsh’s excellent review at theartblog.com.
Photos by Artblog, a partner in WHYY’s News & Information Community Exchange (N.I.C.E.). 🙏
ArtBlog’s mission is to create and foster dialog about art, power, value and truth, in order to promote a better future for all. Their independent online arts publication focuses on marginalized artists — BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women — whose art traditionally has been shunned by the mainstream media. theartblog.org