Get to Know Your “NEIGHBORS” at Barbara Lidfors’ Newest Installation

by | May 2024

Barbara Lidfors' NEIGHBORS show

Photo: Barbara Lidfors

Local artist uses her community as inspiration, bringing others’ stories to life via paintings.

Currently in the hallway between Minnetonka’s city hall and community center, you will find a neighborhood of stories, stories about the people artist Barbara Lidfors has encountered. This installation of Lidfors’ NEIGHBORS series contains 10 nearly life-sized paintings. Each painting captures a real life moment experienced by real people. All together, these paintings represent the diversity and interconnectedness within the community.

We sat down with Lidfors to learn more about what went into creating NEIGHBORS. 

Lake Minnetonka Magazine: What did your creative process for this show look like?

Barbara Lidfors (BL): As a portrait and landscape artist, I use my artwork to respond to and document the people and places I encounter and enjoy. The public art project NEIGHBORS had its beginning during the [over three] decades that I lived overseas. For an art festival in the German city of Schwabach, I was invited to create artwork to be exhibited on the city’s market square. The group of paintings I contributed were of almost life-sized people from various ethnic groups, mounted on either side of specially designed wooden boxes, which could stand alone in a public space. By walking up to and around a group of these large peopled boxes, viewers felt like they were encountering real people and would stop to engage with them. It was a new and unique art application and very much enjoyed. In 2020, I moved back to Minnetonka, not far from where I had lived before my overseas years. Observing the multifaceted face of present-day Minnesota, I soon realized that I could capture the mix of ethnicities I was seeing around me by adding more paintings to my NEIGHBORS series. This was a welcome task and is probably not yet finished, but I am pleased with the combined mix of people I have been able to present.

What inspired you to explore the theme of neighbors?

BL: I enjoy engaging with others and learning what they have experienced during their life journeys. Commonalities and diversities make for rich exchanges. I also enjoy stories. NEIGHBORS features real-life people and their real-life stories painted onto canvas. It presents the kind of people we encounter around us every day. When they hang on walls together, I imagine their narratives combining, allowing our imagination to fill in many details in a never ending saga.

Did this show challenge you artistically? And if so, how did you move past these challenges?

BL: I see a development in my artistic abilities between my early boxes and the ones I

completed recently. I love the moment in portrait painting when I finally catch a likeness of someone, and they begin to breathe on their own. I reach that point quicker now than earlier. In my later NEIGHBORS paintings, I also spent more time on the backgrounds, trying to add something to our understanding of the person by what I included.

Have you learned anything new while exploring this theme?

BL: Perhaps because I lived as an integrated foreigner in another culture for so many years, I automatically have empathy with others who navigate more than one culture in their daily lives. It can be challenging as well as enriching. The basic things of life, however, exist in every culture, just with different customs and expressions.

What is the main message you want your work to communicate?

BL: NEIGHBORS are people who share public spaces with us while cultivating their own homes and cultures, and each one plays a starring role in their own colorful story. These stories can provide us with new perspectives, into our own lives and into those of others.

Barbara Lidfors
Facebook: Barbara Lidfors Studio
Instagram: @barbaralidfors


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