Bob Barthelmes


1401 Longview Ave


Although I have worked in virtually every medium, watercolor is my true love. As I tell my students, watercolor is the only medium that has a mind of its own, and while it will respond to being controlled, it is happiest when it is allowed to roam. My work has gone in several different directions and taken several themes in the past several years. I find that this enables me to leave one theme and return to another with a refreshed eye and feeling. Here briefly are the three major themes that I have been concentrating on. Wabi Sabi The concept of these paintings was inspired by the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi. The essence of wabi sabi is things transitory, incomplete and unpretentious. It is the diametric opposite of slick commercial style that surrounds us in our daily lives. Wabi sabi is an appreciation of the tenuous subtlety of nature in its endless pattern of living and passing. It was these radical differences between wabi sabi and prevailing modern design that inspired me to think about a way to visually explore these differences. In the purity of wabi sabi thinking, these differences would never be brought together. In my paintings I have endeavored to bring the two sensibilities together. The work attempts to show the ubiquitous modern landscape. In Wabi Sabi Goldenrod the shopping center has been carved out of a natural setting and nature continues to thrive at the border the developer has established for it. The work is not meant to be a protest of contemporary commercial design and things manmade, but rather they are my observations of the contemporary scene. Finktown, USA Being raised in the old Finktown section of Peekskill during the 1940’s and 50’s gave me rich memories, which are the inspiration for this series. Finktown received its colorful name during the 19th century when Peekskill was a bustling foundry town. All the scenes were painted from memory and in each scene I have tried to bring to life a time and place and way of living that America has left behind. The paintings are my vivid recollections of a charmingly simple neighborhood of large working-class families nestled in a narrow valley with the evanescent spirit of a time past. The example shown here, Going to the Carnival, 1948 shows Finktown children scampering across the Penelope Pond Dam on their way to that most exciting of Finktown events, the traveling carnival. Plein Air This is an ongoing series of studies and paintings that I began as a child. Now numbering in the hundreds, all were done outdoors and on-site. Many are of Hudson Valley subjects and many others were executed in locations across America ranging from the coalmines of Pennsylvania to the cornfields of Nebraska to the Wyoming Rockies. This series has also taken me to such varied locations as the coast of Labrador, the Italian Alps, Northern Ireland and the biggest challenge of all, the Iditarod Trail in Alaska. The example shown is View from Manitou Mountain from a series done in 2003.