An Abstract Painter finds inspiration — and herself — in the natural world

By Ross Howell Jr.     Photographs by Rebecka VanderVeen


It looks rough now, but it will be beautiful this summer,” says artist Angel Rose Barker, standing on the porch overlooking her Fisher Park backyard.

Barker, who goes by Angie, points out beds of daffodils and hellebores. Mature hardwoods rim the lot.

“When they leaf out, there’s a lot of shade,” Barker says.

Near the porch are ceramic containers, large and small.

“A lot of them we’ll move up here,” Barker says. “This porch really gets blasted by the sun.”

She and her husband, Michael Sage, have been gardening here for three years.

“I wanted Sage to have a hobby away from the computer,” Barker says. “He’s a software developer.”

Originally grass, the yard had nothing to attract pollinators.

“The first year Sage figured out he could use one of my detail brushes to pollinate the tomato flowers,” Barker says. “And we got tomatoes.”

She praised her husband’s resourcefulness.

“I told him that was fascinating,” she continues. “But next year we have to get flowers.”

Barker feels she inherited her interest in gardening from her grandfathers. One, a Polish émigré, grew roses in a Chicago suburb. Another grew vegetables on an acre plot.

“They could just get lost in gardening,” Barker explains. “And that’s how I feel.”

Taking me into her home studio, Barker shows me examples of a recent series of paintings.

“I dive deep into my feelings when I’m creating these works,” she says. “They’re like a meditation for that day.”

She calls them “Flora,” and they’re bright color abstracts painted on large, organically shaped wood panels made in Burlington and hand-cut by a friend.

Barker explains that she started working on shaped wood panels when she began thinking about how constrictive framed, four-sided canvases are.

“My favorite quote is from playwright Henrik Ibsen,” Barker says. “‘A forest bird never wants a cage.’”

“These wood panel paintings are free to move around,” she continues. “They feel alive.”

As with her gardening, Barker is self-taught in her use of color. Her B.F.A. from Appalachian State University is in graphic design.

“As an undergrad, I did a lot of pen-and-ink drawings,” Barker says. “All black-and-white.”

When she started expressing herself with color, she painted with deep blues and purples, in what she calls her “dark and moody period.”

“I feel my work has completely changed,” Barker says. “Now it’s a more effulgent palette, like there’s a radiance coming through the paintings.”

Barker shows me a wood panel called Flora: The Bloom. She tells me it’s inspired by the flowers she’s grown in her garden.

Another panel is entitled Flora: Who I’m Meant To Be.

Barker smiles.

“I finally realized who I wanted to be when I got into this series,” she says. “It’s funny how understanding the theory and science behind color can completely change your perspective on life. Being surrounded by color all the time, I feel more joyful.”  OH

Angie Barker also produces commissioned art. Visit her website,,
or follow her on Instagram @angietherose.

Ross Howell Jr. is a freelance writer in Greensboro.

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