Barbara Jacobsen named Treasure Artist
BARBARA JACOBSEN in one of her two studios.
Barbara Jacobsen received quite a birthday present on Thursday.
Jacobsen, who was celebrating her 75th birthday, received a phone call informing her that she has been named Sonoma’s Treasure Artist of the Year.
“It was an amazing present … and quite a surprise,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen, whose late husband Ray was named Treasure Artist in 1997 by Sonoma’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission, is the first husband-wife to be named Treasure Artist in separate years. Roger and Diana Rhoten were named Treasure Artist in 2004.
Jacobsen, a San Francisco native, has been in the Sonoma Valley since the late 1960s.
Her great-grandmother was Gertrude Atherton, an author with more than 60 books to her name. “I recently found a letter from Gertrude that she sent me when I was 10 years old,” Jacobsen said. In the letter, Gertrude encouraged her great-granddaughter to explore her creative side.
But Jacobsen hasn’t always been an artist. Her day job for years was that of an elementary school teacher.
“I helped found the Moon Valley School, which was an alternative school,” she said.
She and Ray Jacobsen married in 1975.
“Ray encouraged me,” she said. “I learned a lot from him.”
She tried her hand as a solitary artist at one point, but had to go back to teaching to supplement their income.
At one point, she and Ray moved to Carmen, Ariz., for a few years to paint. Carmen is a small town about 30 miles north of the Mexican border.
“It was quiet and peaceful and no distractions,” she recalls of their time there.
“But Sonoma was pretty hard to beat,” she said, so she and Ray came back. “He was brought up in Sonoma. He never got tired of it.”
Since Ray died in 2007, Barbara has been teaching collage with Audrey Von Hawley at the Sonoma Collage Studio at the Grove Street Artist Community. And she’s also been conducting sessions writing “Journey” books.
“I love to draw and I love collage,” she said. “I got into it by accident. I was painting and screwed one up, so I cut out a piece and put a picture of a cloud in and then colored around it.”
“Collage brings stuff from your unconscious,” she said. “It’s great for kids.”
“You can’t make a bad collage,” she added.
While doing collage, she started what she calls her “Journey” books, in which you write down everything you can say about your collage.
“I got the idea from Robert Johnson, a Yungian philosopher,” she said.
She explained that she’s put together three groups of eight women who met once a month discussing their collages, putting their thoughts down on paper and writing a haiku about their collage. After six months, they made their “Journey” books.
“We learn so much about ourselves,” she said.
But now Barbara has decided she’s going to take a sabbatical from the “Journey” books and devote full time to being an artist again.
She still has Ray’s studio that she’s putting in some semblance of order so that she can use it.
“I’m still going to do my collage classes, but I want more time to work by myself,” she said, even though she admits that’s kind of scary.
She works in oils, color pencils, pastels and may start exploring other media. “There’s a wealth of material around here,” she said, surveying Ray’s old studio. “I’m fortunate to have two places here to work.”
A sampling of the recommendations the Cultural and fine Arts Commission received included, “She means so much to so many people; she’s sparked their artistic potential and made a huge bonus in so many lives;” “She is an inspiring and liberating teacher … has had a profoundly positive effect on many people as documented in the book ‘Living Into Art,’ written by Lindsay Whiting;” “She has truly been an inspiration not only to me, but to newcomers and old-timers alike, through the practice of her own art, and as a teacher.”
A reception for Barbara Jacobsen will be held at a later date.