A Discussion with Debra Barrera and Jonathan Hopson

Last Tuesday, our class met in 2121 for a visiting artist lecture by Barrera and Hopson. They announced themselves as a married duo who contributed to each other’s success as artists and gallery owners. Barrera began the lecture introducing us to her art career, showing slides of how her work began and how it progressed. Her work explored the poetic idea of space and exploration of odd or unreachable places such as mountain and volcano peaks. She also shared with us the difficulties artists sometimes face and have to overcome through her Thunderbird car installation was that knocked over and ruined. After this incident, she didn’t feel the need to make her work so profound and big and has started approaching art making in a more meditative way. As a fellow painting major who has also recently reverted back to drawings and works on paper, it was comforting to hear how she gravitated away from old masters style painting to return to her first and foremost love of drawing.

Next, we listened to Hopson talk about owning a gallery and the curation process. It was insightful to hear him describe the differences between old and new galleries. Old galleries display work with the intent to sell them at the top of their priority, which affects how a show is curated. New galleries, however, take into account the experience or the artwork as a whole and what it is communicating to visitors, regardless of if they are looking to buy. Another comment they made I really like was how sometimes you need “life” time over “studio” time. This is how I personally overcome obstacles in the studio where I’ve hit a speed bump. The biggest takeaway from Hopson’s lecture was what he wished he has known when he was in our shoes. Figure out what you like, take advantage of the time at school, create your own gallery opportunities if they aren’t coming to you, and take initiative and ask people if you can do things. Life in the art world, regardless of what you are doing, takes “real work” that you won’t find at some desk job.

I think it was interesting to have two perspectives at this lecture, and I appreciated how they let each other give their own talks. Barrera was helpful to studio majors as she shared her experiences in undergrad, grad school, and post-graduation working as a professional artist. Hopson was helpful to studio majors looking for gallery opportunities as well, but also for non-artists who are more interested in helping to build and sustain the art community, which is essential for artists to sustain themselves. You could see how collaboration and taking the non-conventional path has also helped them to reach the point they are at.

Lauren Lerwick


One comment

  1. It was very different but nice to have two speakers and a married couple to give us a talk. It was a nice variety from all the other speakers we have had this semester. I personally can relate to Debra because she is an art student like most us of here. It was almost like a big sister giving you feedback and advice in whats to come or what to prepare yourself for. However, it was refreshing to know that he drive for art hasn’t died and she is even more passionate than she was before.

    Marlene Gallegos


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