How one question changed a student’s life.

"East Lake Creek," by Barbara Conviser ’66

By Emily Harrison Weir

As a Mount Holyoke College sophomore, Barbara Conviser thought she was headed for a law career. But a single question from her advisor changed that trajectory.

“Why don’t you major in something that you are really good at?” she remembered professor Leonard DeLonga asking. “Art was the obvious choice, and that changed my life focus forever. What a gift that became,” Conviser said.

So she graduated in 1966 with a major in art and went on for an MFA from Columbia. She raised two children—one of whom is also an artist—and has kept drawing a central focus of her life.

Over the years, she has painted and sculpted in many styles, from realistic to abstract. She now gravitates toward working directly from nature, creating her own version of what she sees.

She often starts a piece by photographing a location from several angles and pinning the photos to the wall of her Aspen, Colorado, studio. Then she uses the photographs as a “touch point” for interpreting the scene in charcoal or pastels.

“My drawings are witnesses to my life, and they form a diary of places I have seen and admired,” Conviser said. “Through them, I have tried to capture a spirit more than depict exact detail.”

Exhibitions of her work have attracted interest from viewers and collectors. “My pictures have been bought by a few major art collectors and by others who just liked the stories I told visually,” she said. “Sales-wise … good years and bad years. But as far as a fulfilling career, I can’t think of ever being more satisfied.”

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