Barbara L. Sykes

My life, career and art are intrinsically intertwined journeys of self-discovery.

I was born into a family of artists, designers and inventors and have always produced art. Recently, in 2017, I began to paint. My paintings are lyrical, colorful abstractions reminiscent of organic shapes, ethereal forms and underwater landscapes - evocative impressions of spiritual and elemental worlds. In 2019, as a recipient of an Evanston Arts Center Individual Artists Exhibition Award, an Illinois Arts Council Artist Professional Development Grant and Arts for Illinois Relief Grant I received funding and support for “Ethereal Abstractions,” my first solo watercolor exhibition, November 8 – December 20, 2020. During its 6-week run, it premiered 81 of my paintings and launched my new career as a painter. Since December 2021, COCO Art Galleries in Naples and Estero, Florida are showing a selection of my paintings monthly. Recent painting exhibitions in 2022 include the Florida Watercolor Society's 2022 FWS Online Show, the 36th Annual All Florida Exhibition - Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, Florida, "Forces of Nature" on the cover of Estero Life Magazine, April 2022 and in their article, "Beholding Beauty: Artists of Estero Exhibit at COCO Art Gallery" and at The Center for the Arts Bonita Springs’s "Artistically Fashioned Exhibition" and “Members Show.”  “Ethereal Abstractions” evokes the spontaneity, themes and underlying presence of the Divine Feminine - reoccurring threads that reflect and continue from my previous body of time-based and digital art.

Prior to painting, I have an extensive career as a time-based artist. In 1974, I became one of Chicago’s pioneering video and new media artists and, later to include, independent video producer, curator and Columbia College Professor of Television. In the 1970’s, I received international acclaim for my groundbreaking performances with Tom DeFanti during the first, live computer performances of their kind; The First Interactive Electronics Visualization Event, IEVE I, 1975, The Second Electronics Visualization Event, EVE II, 1976, and The Third Electronic Visualization Even, EVE III, 1978. My succeeding time-based work explores themes of spirituality, rituals and indigenous cultures from a feminist perspective – integrating music, dance, poetry, performance and martial arts. As a recipient of numerous grants and artists residencies, I toured and presented my solo exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Japan, Australia, Spain, and was the first woman video artist to present in China. Group museum exhibitions include; Museum of Modern Art, Paris, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, Kunst Museum, Germany, Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum, Copenhagen, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Museum of the Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. A featured artist in the 1996-1997 Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago’s retrospective exhibition, “Art in Chicago, 1945-1995”, and the companion book produced for this show. I am also a featured artist and contributor in the book, “New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts, 2018, about the pioneering women in the arts during the digital revolution from the 1970s and beyond that gave rise to artistic innovations that played a major role in the birth of New Media Arts. I tour nationally as part of its book's tours and present during its HerStory symposiums. For additional information, visit Barbara L. Sykes (artist) on Wikipedia at


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