William & Mary

Barbara Pearsall '13 awarded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship

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    Untitled  steel, 5.5' x 5' x 5', 2011  
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    Untitled  (detail), steel, 5.5' x 5' x 5', 2011  
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    Untitled  ceramic, 9" x 14" x 9", 2011  
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    Untitled  sticks, metal rod, 4' x 5' x 3', 2011  
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    Untitled  (alternate view), sticks, metal rod, 4' x 5' x 3', 2011  
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    Untitled  ceramic, 9" x 13" x 7", 2011  
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    Untitled  steel, 24" x 20" x 22", 2011  
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    Untitled  bronze, 8" x 4" x 4", 2011  
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Barbara Pearsall '13

When Barbara Pearsall '13 arrived on campus three years ago, she aspired to be an International Relations and Hispanic Studies major. Then fate intervened.

“As a freshman, I had a hard time getting into the classes I wanted,” says Barbara. Assigned to a pre-major advisor in the Art and Art History Department, she “ended up taking several art classes, and I loved them.”

Over the next couple of years, Barbara explored different mediums in both 2D and 3D art, ultimately finding her passion for sculpture at the end of her sophomore year.

“I was spending more time in the studio than I was in my room,” says Barbara, who is now majoring in Art and Art History. “That was a big indication to me that art was my life.”

Last month, Barbara was awarded a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) Fellowship for her work.

“I was very surprised,” says Barbara. “I applied on a whim, and I wasn’t expecting to win. My work was competing against some very talented artists from across the state. Winning definitely validated what I am doing.”

Established in 1940, the VMFA fellowship program invites three categories of artists - professional, graduate students, and undergraduate students - who are residents of Virginia to apply. Awards are made based on artistic merit.

Barbara sculpts mostly in metal and prefers steel. “I did my first project in steel my sophomore year, and it just felt right,” says Barbara. “I work well with it.”

One of the pieces she submitted for the fellowship was inspired by a pottery project that didn’t turn out right. Barbara based the sculpture on the unsuccessful pottery form.

“I am very interested in vessel forms and how there can be a subtle shift from each one,” says Barbara. “I prefer to work in planar materials to create volume. All my art works very similarly.”

Barbara is currently creating pieces for her departmental Honors thesis, titled “Object and Environment,” on the subject of form.

“There is a lot to form that people don’t realize,” says Barbara. “How it sits in a space, how it is affected by scale, and how a viewer interacts with a shape.”

Barbara plans to save her $4,000 fellowship award for graduate school, which she anticipates as a couple of years off. In the interim, she is considering applying for a Fulbright Scholarship, traveling, and building her portfolio.

“I am not an art major because my intended goals failed, but because I realized what I am actually passionate about,” says Barbara, “I have been so lucky to be able to pursue art with the support of the department through the personalized program I have received.”