Barbara Emmel Wolinsky was born an artist in New York in 1947, and later discovered formal training at Parsons School of Design and The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard. After a brief, harrowing stint as an advertising art director in New York City, she moved to Boston where she had the quintessential Cambridge experience while working for the Real Paper, formed the design firm Brook Five, and added some humor to the burgeoning recycling movement by designing the “Eat January” calendar.
In 1978, Barbara married National Geographic Magazine photographer Cary Wolinsky, and had her design career repeatedly and wonderfully interrupted by travel throughout the world. Despite the diversions, Barbara continued to produce designs that won awards from the Art Director’s Club of Boston, and wonderful illustrations and paintings through her design firm, Trillium Studios.
While on the road, she created small clay-headed, felt-bodied figures, trimming them with exotic decorations found in local markets. Most of these she gave away to the children she met along the way. A few, though, chose to return home and demanded appropriately furnished wooden “houses” where they still reside. These whimsical worlds, originally created to shelter the feisty personalities of the “Little People”, were the first inspiration for her Box Constructions.
Barbara’s work embodies her keen sense of story, her quiet sense of humor, and her passion for detail in sculpting, paintings, graphic design and assembly. With these skills and her great love of “junking”, she creates compelling, surreal worlds in the assemblage tradition of Joseph Cornell.
Ute Stebich Gallery, Lenox, MA, July 1993
Bird’s Nest Studio, Hingham, MA, December 1993
James Center for the Arts, Norwell, MA, March 1995
North & South River Watershed, Norwell, MA, April 1995
Venturing So Close, Soho 20, New York, NY, June 1995
Lost Objects, Found Visions, South Shore Art Center, Cohasset, MA, August 1995
A Gift of Art, Cragin Fife Gallery, Brookline, MA, December 1995
Because my husband, my son, and I have lived a life on the road—travelling for National Geographic Magazine—I’ve had a chance to comb the beaches of many countries. From a distance one beach may look much like another, but when searching for objects caught in the tangle of detritus along the high tide line of India, I have found treasures very different from those I’ve discovered in the windrows of New Guinea or Cape Cod. If there wasn’t a beach, I would scan the roadside, the busy bazaars, or the desert floor. In the West Australian outback, I’ve collected wind-etched wood, otherworldly seed pods, and sun-bleached bones. In Moroccan,Turkish and Indian markets I’ve collected sparkling trims and beads. English antique shops netted bits of silver, porcelain doll parts and Victorian greeting cards. I have thousands of these odd bits of ephemera stored in shallow drawers—and boxes.
A box usually starts with a single object that grabs my attention. It may suggest a story, a place, a memory, or a dream. One object calls in another and, together, they require a world in which they can speak. A box comes together like the characters in a play. Once I sense the plot, there is excitement. Each time I open a drawer a new cast member may appear, the plot may shift, a metaphor becomes richer. Of course, there are also blind alleys. A box may sit half done for months or years. To bring it back to life I just need to find the right object at the right moment.