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Barbara Gillette (1940-)

Pictured, clockwise from left (see below for larger pictures): 

  • White Calla Lilies
  • Orange Calla Lilies
  • Yellow Calla Lilies
    (set of 3), 2014 and 2015

Materials: Chalk pastel on paper.

Location at Summa Health:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 North Forge Street), blue neighborhood, fourth floor, hallway outside patient rooms H4-117 and H4-118.

About the art and artist

The strong, pure lines of calla lilies and their sword-like foliage make them a floral classic, which Medina County artist Barbara Gillette explores in this trio of chalk pastels, a medium that calls for quick, sure mark-making and not much elaboration. The artist explores multiple views of the blossom, observed from close at hand or further distant, and in groups. The multiple perspectives encourage us to appreciate the flower’s sculptural qualities in general: its clean lines and subtle curving surfaces, its rolled lip and vanishing tip. The largest of these compositions emphasizes, with its verticality, the majesty of the rising white forms; the smaller works are presented more intimately, in the format of a close-up.

Gillette also uses each repeated form as an occasion to play with the gradation of colors from calyx to tip: Shadows on white can be purple; on yellow, red and blue; on orange, purple and red, all set against subtly variegated ground. The artist loves the rich and luminous colors she can achieve with chalk pastel, and her work has been praised for this quality especially. She also varies the role that foliage plays in each of these explorations — note where it is absent, where it forms an almost abstract, patterned background, and where it enframes the blossoms most naturalistically. You come away with a sense of really knowing calla lilies, which is part of the artist’s strategy to make you more familiar with the beauties of our endangered landscapes.

Born in Akron, Barbara Gillette earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Akron, majoring in drawing and minoring in painting and art history. She began painting landscapes which were noted for their clarity of line and simplification of subject matter and reduction of detail in order to keep focus on the overall tension and mood. She has drawn upon her gardens and landscapes as inspiration for her work and has exhibited widely in museums, galleries, and higher education institutions around Ohio. Her many contributions to the arts in Northeast Ohio were recognized in 2011 with the award of Outstanding Visual Artist by the Akron Area Arts Alliance. 

See the Orange Calla Lilies

See the White Calla Lilies

See the Yellow Calla Lilies

Where you can see more of this artist’s work:

Barbara Gillette’s work is held in corporate collections (B.F. Goodrich, Society National Bank) and in libraries and health institutions (the Crystal Clinic, the Akron Public Library, the Akron Children’s Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland Museum of Art Extensions Collections), as well as in private collections. She is represented by galleries in Cleveland and Akron. The Artists’ Archives of the Western Reserve preserves an overview of her work.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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