Artist Tells Visual Story of American Indians at Spartanburg Co-op

Artist Tells Visual Story of American Indians at Spartanburg Co-op

Artist Barbie Workman will exhibit her latest collection of creative work using encaustic wax with mixed media -- “Whispers of Stories” -- at West Main Artists Co-op in Spartanburg, Feb. 5-March 2. The 20 pieces will be representational abstractions that visually tell folk stories that Workman heard as a child from her American Indian grandparents.

“The message I hope to convey is the positive impact from oral history within families that teach morals and values to the next generation,” the artist said. “My inspiration is derived from memories of the stories passed down to me by grandparents, from storytellers at pow wows through the years, and from Choctaw and Cherokee modern authors. Upon entering the exhibit, I hope people are enticed through the various assembled surfaces and visual compositions to contemplate the art and to experience the story.”

This will be one of three exhibits at the Co-op in February. All of the exhibits will be open for free public viewing Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Workman’s public and free reception will be on Thursday, Feb. 21, 5-9 p.m., during Spartanburg’s monthly ArtWalk.

Workman’s work is often surreal and nonrepresentational, and “Whispers of Stories” reflects those influences. Here, however, she has included classic American Indian images -- such as eagles and buffalos -- and actual physical elements -- such as broken teacups -- into this exhibit in order to tell a relatable story to the general public. In her artist’s statement, Workman wrote: “Like a slow morning dew, the collection of images, shapes, and colors come together to tell a whisper of a story. To lead your imaginings on a path winding through memories and lofty ideals that carry you to a place of connection. Stories passed from the time of quiet reflection and intimate connection, there is a visual journey to share…. Two of the civilized tribes, Choctaw and Cherokee, utilize storytelling to teach life lessons, humorous folklore, and the values of their ancestors…. Each part of each composition is like a puzzle for the viewer to enjoy and assimilate into an inner connected story. Through this art show, I hope to open your mind’s eye to the incredible value in teaching through visual, as well as audible, storytelling. I am Native American and have lived all over these United States. My family is a mix of Cherokee, Choctaw, and European. We actively seek to reclaim and restore our native traditions by storytelling, attending pow wows, and food traditions.”

It has taken Workman more than five months to create this exhibit, and the pieces will be for sale, ranging in price from $75 to $900. “I feel that ‘Whispers of Stories’ is characteristic of the current path of surreal encaustic mixed media that I have been developing for a couple years,” she said. “My previous works have been described as ethereal textural abstraction.”

Workman has been a member of West Main Artists Co-op since 2017. “I really appreciate the opportunities presented by being a member,” she said. “I have developed more in my art career in this past year and learned the many facets of working toward a productive art career by being actively involved in WMAC.”

Workman began her art career after a long journey of discovering her artistic expression and talent. Her love for the art movements of fauvism, impressionism, and surrealism inspires and influences the development of her own artwork. With a unique eye for color and formation of movement through many layers, she discovered the encaustic process. Her work explores the relationship between nature’s textures through the use of color and form. “Using the mixed media encaustic process there is no limitation to movement of the composition and surreal visual feel of each individual artwork,” she said.

Workman has worked on commissions for beach landscapes, contemporary works, and encaustic mixed media. “I found my art groove at a pivotal time in my journey, and I am blessed every day to be able to live in this creative world of imaginings,” she said. “It is a passion of my life and beauty that I find overflowing into physical expressions that I am fortunate enough to share.”

Workman began her art education at the University of Central Oklahoma, then later at the University of West Florida with the focus of painting and sculpture. Her encaustic mixed media work has been previously display in galleries, artisanal boutiques, and retail stores in Florida and South Carolina.

West Main Artists Co-op is a nonprofit and membership-based arts agency in Spartanburg. It houses working studios and public galleries in a large converted church. It also has the largest collection of for-sale locally made art in Spartanburg. For more information, please visit

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