Barbara Felix loves dance. She loves the movement, she loves the aesthetics, and she loves the uniqueness that defines each dancer’s art. In fact, after taking a jazz dance class in college, she aspired to pursue dance professionally. Unfortunately, a serious back injury soon after that class dashed those hopes, and Barbara moved on.
Fast forward to today, and Barbara is a well-known San Antonio artist who has exhibited her work throughout the city and state, including at renowned venues and events such as the Carver Community Cultural Center, The McNay Museum. The San Antonio Art League & Museum, Blue Star Contemporary’s Red Dot, The Southwest School of Art, The City of San Antonio Plaza de Armas Gallery, and the Luminaria Arts Festival.
But a love for dance has remained a big part of Barbara’s core, and over time, she has developed a unique art-form that melds her two passions.
It grew from her first art pieces that incorporated dance into her paintings. She avidly watched dance shows like “So You Think You Can Dance?”. That show particularly resonated with Barbara because the contestants were young, aspiring professional dancers — something that hit close to home. She painted the contestants on that show - in motion. She painted an image of her own face, however, on each piece, because she wasn’t certain about legal or ethical implications of using images of those contestants without permission. You can see that collection — “Bailando con Mi Misma” (Dancing with My Self) — on Barbara’s website. In fact, our cover artwork in this month’s issue — “Sigueme” (Follow Me) — is part of that collection.
The Glorious Way She Moves
Following that, Barbara created another series incorporating dance — “The Glorious Way She Moves”. Her process for creating the pieces in this collection evolved over time as she met with and created paintings of a diverse array of San Antonio women — some were friends, some family members, and others were women she didn’t know but who piqued her interest and who agreed to participate in the project.
To best understand Barbara’s process for creating the pieces in this collection, it makes sense to start by looking at one of the finished pieces. This one is called “The Glorious Way She Moves - Alayna”:
"The Glorious Way She Moves - Alayna"
“The Glorious Way She Moves” isn’t yet complete. Several pieces are finished, but there are many more in the works — including several for which Barbara has created the composites but has yet to do the paintings.
All of the pieces are of women and Barbara’s goal with it has been diversity — diversity in age, ethnicity, socio and economic backgrounds, race, size, body shape, and color.
A subset of the finished pieces became an exhibit at the Carver Community Cultural Center last year. That exhibit was called “The Glorious Way She Moves — Back Venus”. Barbara explained “I decided to use all Black women for that show… the Carver’s on the east side, built for the Black community, by the Black community.”
That exhibit included these pieces:
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Vocab’ (San Antonio Poet Laureate / singer / social activist / scifi lover)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Aissatou’ (financial advisor / curator / fine art collector)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Aralyn’ (high school senior / biology college major / aspiring singer and composer)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Alayna’ (junior high student, future veterinarian or interior designer)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Gloria Ray’ (college board trustee, first woman of color San Antonio Fiesta Commission President)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Janet Scott’ (world traveler, retired teacher and tennis champion)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Glory Jones’ (t-shirt designer, screen printer, retail sales, roller skater)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Rosaland Anderson’ (retired information technology executive, self-titled ‘personal family affairs executive’)
‘The Glorious Way She Moves - Gracie Poe’ (sculptor, San Antonio Queen of Soul Pageant founder, retired regional fashion merchandise manager)
The gallery below includes all of the pieces in the Carver exhibit (click on the first and page through to see the full images). You can also see all of these pieces along with their accompanying audio pieces on Barbara’s website.
“The Glorious Way She Moves - Alayna” - Composite of frames on which the painting is based
Barbara filmed each of the women for her paintings dancing. She asked them to wear whatever clothing they wanted, and to choose whatever music they wanted, and she recorded them getting lost in the music and the movement. She told me “I think many of them forget that I was there.”
Her original plan was to choose a frame from each video and use it as the image from which she would do a painting. After the first session, however, as Barbara went through the film she realized “it was hard to pick just one image to paint”. That’s when her vision for the project grew and she realized that each piece would be a composite that underscored movement.
So, for each piece, Barbara watched the film in its entirety, and then painstakingly went through it, frame-by-frame, identifying individual frames that captured the uniqueness, character, and beauty of the model.
She compiled and positioned those individual frames into a single piece that became the ‘image’ from which she painted. Here, for example, is the composite Barbara created that became the basis for the Alayna piece above:
If things had gone to original plan, Barbara would be a dancer today. I suspect she would have been good at it… she clearly has innate, artistic talent. As I look through her body of work, however, I have to believe that she ultimately found her true calling.
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.
"The Glorious Way She Moves - Black Venus" Collection (Exhibit at the Carver Community Cultural Center in 2021)