Gallery mourns the loss of Elena Barnet, beloved widow of Will and dear friend of the gallery

Gallery mourns the loss of Elena Barnet, beloved widow of Will and dear friend of the gallery

Elena Ona Barnet died on Monday, Oct. 10 in Brunswick, Maine. A longtime resident of New York City, Elena had come to Maine – a second home – to spend her remaining time with family.

Born on July 24, 1923 in Kaunas, Lithuania to Jurgis Ciurlys, a government minister and scholar, and Elena Ciurlys, a concert pianist. Elena was the younger of two daughters.

In her late teens, at the height of World War II, Elena pursued a passion for dance, studying modern dance in Vienna, Austria. After the war, Elena’s parents were increasingly concerned about the danger represented by Soviet rule, and arranged for her to emigrate. She arrived in New York City in 1947 (passing through Ellis Island), and lived with her sister Janyte and brother-in-law, who had been living in the United States for over a decade.

In her early years in the country, Elena explored various occupations. These included work as a resettlement aid for fellow immigrants at the Lithuanian consulate, and as a waitress at Schrafft’s in New York City.  A highlight of her first few years in the states came as Elena traveled the country as a member of a professional dance troupe, returning to her performance roots honed years earlier.

In 1953, her association with the Arts Students League in New York led to her initial meeting with artist Will Barnet, whom she would marry within three months. Ona Barnet, their only child together, was born a year later. Elena also became stepmother to Will’s three sons from his previous marriage.

As Elena raised Ona, she found herself drawn to the world of art that her husband inhabited. Surrounded by artists, musicians and writers, she found a home in the creative community of New York City and Provincetown, MA. She was also pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology from The New School, followed by a Master’s degree in social work at Hunter College. She worked at Memorial Sloane Kettering as a social worker for over ten years.

Summers in Maine would prove an enormous influence on her family’s life; the state becoming a major influence on Will’s work and eventually home to her daughter and grandchildren. The muse for many of her husband’s most iconic works, she was an equally strong force in the lives of her daughter and grandchildren.

As grandparents, she and Will would leave their artist residence above the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, where they were active members, and spend each summer at her daughter’s inn on the coast of Maine.

After her husband’s death in 2012, Elena remained in New York City, becoming director of the Will Barnet Foundation. As director she took on the responsibility of advancing her husband’s artistic legacy, remaining close to Will and to the art world that had been their home.

Elena is survived by her daughter, Ona Barnet and husband Randall Gowell; stepsons Peter, Richard and Todd Barnet and their families; grandchild Will Porta and his spouse Roslyn Gerwin; grandchild Ellie Porta-Barnet and her spouse Andrew Rice, and great-granddaughter Willa Rice.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Elena’s memory to the Will Barnet Foundation. There will be a private service for family. Both she and Will are buried in Trinity Wall Street Cemetery at Broadway and 155th Street in New York City.


Will Barnet Three Generations, 1990, oil on canvas, 54 3/4 x 54 inches

Gregory Amenoff: New Paintings mentioned in artnet News

Gregory Amenoff: New Paintings mentioned in artnet News

David Ebony’s Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for October

8. Gregory Amenoff at Alexandre Gallery, through October 29.
The art of painting is alive and well in this luminous exhibition of recent works by New York artist Gregory Amenoff. Though fundamentally abstract, the fourteen works on view all refer to landscape in some way, and convey a rather mystical reverence for nature. Early Bright, for instance, showing a brilliant yellow starburst radiating toward a salmon-pink sky, is unabashedly sensuous, and suggests an almost hallucinatory sunrise vision. Other works, such as Clearing (for JB) and Flood feature sinuously undulating and overlapping curving shapes. In the former, the shapes are yellow, trimmed in blue, and stretch from the top center toward the lower portion of the composition, surrounded on either side by highly stylized vegetal forms and organic shapes.

There is a consistent sensuality and muscularity in Amenoff’s application of paint, and in the impasto surface textures he achieves. Aside from technical richness, the works bear a significant art-historical depth especially in their references to American modernist painters like Dove, O’Keeffe, and Hartley, as critic and painter Stephen Westfall emphasizes in his essay for the show’s catalogue. After spending some time with this exhibition, Amenoff makes a convincing case that the medium of painting is still the best way by far to express the euphoric state of being that one may experience in the presence of natural phenomena.

Lois Dodd at the Sheldon Museum of Art

Lois Dodd at the Sheldon Museum of Art

For Immediate Release | It Was Never Linear: Recent Painting, May 6–July 31, 2016

Lincoln, Nebraska—An exhibition celebrating abstraction in contemporary painting opens May 6 at the Sheldon Museum of Art. It was Never Linear: Recent Painting features selected works by twelve contemporary artists whose production demonstrates a primacy of the act of painting—gestural mark making and attention to surface material—over any true representation of form or figure. 

The exhibition was organized collaboratively by Wally Mason, Sheldon’s director and chief curator, and Aaron Holz, associate professor of art at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Attentive to the fact that many museum visitors and students have come to understand art history through a narrowly focused lens, the co-curators have assembled an exhibition that fosters reconsideration of the art historical canon by looking inclusively at artists who represent varied production.

“I want visitors to see the complexity and richness of paint as a language while supporting a new, more complicated narrative about painting’s current state and recent past,” said Holz.

The artists featured in the exhibition are testament to a nonlinear view of current art making that more fully embraces complexity in age, gender, ethnicity, and location. They are: Robert Bordo, JoAnne Carson, Dawn Clements, Lois Dodd, Michelle Grabner, Josephine Halvorson, Loren Munk, Joyce Pensato, Colin Prahl, Peter Saul, Barbara Takenaga, and Stanley Whitney.

“Although much of the work assembled was selected to resonate, there was a deliberate choice to have enough dissonance in the variety of works and artists selected that viewers will be challenged to make connections between artists and, ideally, argue for or against particular works,” Holz explained.

Mason concurs with his co-curator adding, “Although we are exploring the re-emergence of painting, we’re not looking at an aggregate, but are seeing the individual identity of each artwork and its comfort in jostling among its colleagues.”

It Was Never Linear continues a Sheldon tradition dating back to the 1880s of mounting regular survey exhibitions of recent contemporary art from around the country. Beginning May 20, a selection of objects acquired over the years from these exhibitions will be on view in Building a Legacy Collection: A Survey of Invitational Acquisitions.

Support for It Was Never Linear and its programming has been provided by H. Lee and Carol Gendler Fund. Additional support has been provided by the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation Exhibitions and Programs Fund, Dillon Foundation, Nebraska Arts Council, and Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

Sheldon Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of more than 12,000 objects in a landmark Philip Johnson building at 12th and R streets on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln City Campus. The museum is open free to the public during regular hours: Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday,10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit

St. Lous Art Museum Purchases Horace Pippin's Painting Sunday Morning Breakfast

St. Lous Art Museum Purchases Horace Pippin's Painting Sunday Morning Breakfast

St. Louis Art Museum announces purchase of Pippin's 1943 painting SUNDAY MORNING BREAKFAST from Alexandre Gallery. St. Louis director Brent Benjamin says, "The painting is one of the finest examples of the African-American domestic scenes for which Pippin is best known."

Click here to read the full museum announcement.

To view the recent gallery exhibition American Masterworks From the Merrill C. Berman Collection, please click here.

More recent press on the Pippin sale below:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis Art Museum announces major acquisition

ArtNews: St. Louis Art Museum Acquires Horace Pippin's 'Sunday Morning Breakfast' 

St. Louis Public Radio: With Horace Pippin, the museum has a $1.5 million addition to celebrate

The Telegraph: Saint Louis Art Museum acquires ‘Sunday Morning Breakfast’ by Horace Pippin

ARTFix Daily: Saint Louis Art Museum Acquires Important Work by Horace Pippin

The Observer: MoMA Remixes Its Collection, New World Record for Indian Art, and More