07 February 2010

The sad passing of Barbara Caruso

I was saddened last month to hear of the death of artist Barbara Caruso on December 30.

Barbara was amazing: a fascinating visual artist and the author of three important and very illuminating books from The Mercury Press — two volumes of journals and a collection of essays. I don't know if there is any more honest and telling published account of an artist's life than the two installments of A Painter's Journey.

Barbara, married to the poet Nelson Ball for 44 years, was a brilliant, lovely person.

The few times I visited with them in Paris, Ontario (I wish it had been a lot more than a few times), Barbara always had challenging and absorbing questions, about my writing, or my life, or politics. She talked with great deliberation and precision about her own work: the paintings and drawings that I got to see at a few gallery shows I made it to in Cambridge and at Toronto's Artwords Gallery, and that appeared on the covers of Nelson's legendary mimeographed weed/flower books in the 1960s and 1970s. I learned so much in those few talks: I'd never heard anyone speak so passionately and clearly about colour, about shape, about the field of the canvas.

We ate cookies, drank tea, talked. I'm going to cherish those visits, the quiet and warm hospitality Nelson and Barbara offered.

It always struck me that Barbara, in her visual art, and Nelson, in his writing, did such similar things: minimalist explorations of subtleties, and of the field of the canvas/page. All created with such care, and such commitment to their respective arts.

My most profound condolences go out to Nelson Ball on his loss.

Over and out.

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