About the Artist - Donna Barnako

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October 2019 Issue
About the Cover Artist
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen

Donna Barnako


Like her art, Donna Barnako is a multi-faceted lady. Her abstract style, filled with a menagerie of color palettes, is a direct reflection of the artist, herself. She is both serious and whimsical, gentle and tough, experienced and innocent. Being a former French translator in Brussels and having a big career as a health care lobbyist in DC afforded Donna many things, but a creative, artistic outlet wasn’t one of them. Nonetheless, she did that on her own, and with a full head of knowledge turned her craft into business, as well.

She owned a yarn shop for 15 years to share her love of knitting and fine, exotic yarns with those who shared her passion. “I took groups on knitting tours around the world. We could be in Ireland or somewhere in the world and all be on the tour bus knitting as we traveled to our next stop.”

Somewhere along the way she began crafting jewelry, starting by taking a class. The thing about Donna is when she sets out to do something she goes the distance. She began with bead work and expanded into wire and metal work, enameling, soldering, and acid etchings, incorporating fossils and antiques all to make one-of-a-kind, stunning wearable art. Ultimately, she taught jewelry making and has sold many, many pieces all over the country. Though she no longer makes jewelry, some of her remaining pieces are for sale at Karis Art Gallery and are popular sellers.

It was just five years ago that Donna came to a point in her life where she was ready to add some color. She naturally moved to paint and canvas. “I’m not a drawer. That’s why I love abstract. I took some classes and fell in love with the art,” Donna said. Subsequently, Donna and her bestie, who followed suit, took classes all over—Florida, Philly, New Mexico, France—and most recently taking a few classes with Lowcountry local and abstract artist extraordinaire, Art Cornell. Art has given her much personal praise and sees great talent in her work.

“I immediately got involved in the art community when my husband, Frank, and I moved here two years ago. I joined the Art League of Hilton Head, and the first painting I entered into a show sold as it was being hung. It was a great feeling,” Donna said.

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This month’s cover piece is entitled “Belissima,” which means beautiful in Italian. The intricacies in the collage work in the dress and the melding of rich colors come together to make a layered masterpiece that allows the viewer to get lost in thought and see something new each time it is viewed. “I was inspired by my friend, who lives in Florence, Italy, as she was going through some tough times,” said Donna. This painting has depth and offers mystery and wistfulness. It seems Belissima has experienced a lot, and yet remains graceful and beautiful, and we all can relate to that.

One of Donna’s dreams was to be represented in a gallery. “Every artist wants validation of their art. You put your heart and soul into what you do, and the fact that someone else can appreciate it and want it is the ultimate,” Donna explained. Art Cornell encouraged Donna to pursue her dream based on the talent he saw. “He gave me the courage to stop in at Karis Art Gallery. I had 12 pieces in the car. I knew I couldn’t take them all in, so I lined them up around my car in the parking lot. They accepted several of my paintings and about 3-dozen of my jewelry pieces!”

Donna accepts commissions to create pieces that coordinate with a client’s color scheme—donnabarnako.com. In addition, one of her originals will be featured in the upcoming Island School Council for the Arts Annual Art Auction on October 26 at Karis Art Gallery. To see more of Donna Barnako’s work, visit the Karis Art Gallery, located in Village at Wexford, 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite C-4, Hilton Head Island. www.karisartgallery.com  843-785-5100

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