THE SAG HARBOR EXPRESS ISSUE DATE: 10/14/99 October 1999
Barros' Art Belongs to the Senses
by Annette Hinkle
For the last 20 years or so, Nohra Barros has been a familiar face in one
of Sag Harbor's most enduring legendary retail establishments. The wife of
bookseller Canio Pavone, Barros is a passionate reader and lover of literature
who has dedicated herself to the bookstores that bear her husband's name and
are synonymous with Sag Harbor.
But Canio's bookshop has changed hands and the store on Long Wharf that
Barros has managed for the last five years will close at month's end. Just the
Main Street location will remain. Barros is excited about the change that will
soon give her more time to follow another of her life's passions - painting.
This Saturday, a new show opens at the Nabi Gallery in Sag Harbor featuring
Barros' latest still-life watercolor compositions as well as several of her
magical prints shown previously at the gallery. "From the Hyacinth Garden"
also features works by artists Younghee Choi Martin of New York City and
Margaret Garrett of Shelter Island.
Barros' watercolors, even her still-lifes, have an evocative moodiness that
hints at deeper inner meaning. Shadows play a big role in her work and speak
of another realm.
"For me it is nothing conscious, it just filters," says Barros of her
artwork. "Shadows are important to me. It represents something in my
Barros grew up in Colombia and as a teenager, attended the School of Fine
Arts there. "I always enjoyed reading, drawing, art and movies," she admits.
"I loved the big MGM films, the American movies."
Books always played a big part in Barros life, even before she met her
husband. "My father encouraged me to read," she says. "He let me charge all
the books I wanted at a local bookshop." Even today, Barros turns to books
before she picks up a brush. And although the story line is not likely to be
introduced literally into Barros work, the mood of the writing often
influences the feel of her art.
"Sometimes I get inspired by images that come to me in a book. It comes out
in my subconscious," says Barros. "When I do a print, it might not have
anything to do with what I read, but it might help. I tend to read for a while
then I paint."
"I think I'd rather be able to read than paint if I had to choose," says
Barros who names Garcia Marquez, Borges and Cortazar as some of her favorite
authors. "When I was young I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies. Now I
like novels. I'm really enjoying the classics. Then I alternate with
mysteries. The old hard boiled ones."
"The mystery has to do with darkness. I was thinking about that recently. I
thought, in mysteries there is always death," says Barros who finds the
shadowy side of life intriguing - which she thinks may stem from her
upbringing in South America. "The Spaniards have a thing about death." But
Barros points out that in Latin America death is observed with uplifting
celebrations for the living. "There is the Day of the Dead festival. Here, you
talk about people passing away."
While Barros has been concentrating on watercolor still lifes as of late,
her earlier work in prints tend to explore the unseen world.
"My prints are metaphysical in the sense they're about a reality that could
be in our imagination and a refuge from this reality," she says. "Objects and
events having their own life. That in general is what I'm interested in. The
world of dreams."
"Art belongs to the senses. It's an important thing. Whether you create it
or see it. You have to let yourself go."
And speaking of going, Barros and Pavone plan to do just that in the
upcoming months. With no store to run and plenty of time, the couple is
looking forward to seeing the world.
"In the beginning of the year we'll travel cross country," says Barros. "We
want to see the Grand Canyon. Then we'll go to Italy for a few months and live
in some little village."
Barros also plans to get to Ireland sometime in the not too distant future.
It is a country with which she has longed to visit.
"I love the music," says Barros. "I'm reading more Irish authors, the music
of the language. It all came together emotionally and I reacted very
"I don't plan too much ahead of time. I live in the present and plan
little. Maybe it's fatalism in that we don't know what will come along and
"I like change. I provoke it," says Barros with a smile.
An opening reception for "From the Hyacinth Garden" will be held this
Saturday, October 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Nabi Gallery, Route 114 in Sag
Harbor, one block south of Bay Street. The show will run through November 21.