Claira Barilar

    Bio: Claira Barilar (b. 1988) is a Northern Appalachian painter, illustrator, and educator living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She holds an MFA in Painting from Edinboro University (Edinboro, PA USA) and a BFA in Studio Art from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Indiana, PA USA). She has been featured on the Create Magazine podcast, in issue 13 of Create Magazine, volume 38 of Studio Visit Magazine, and various other publications. She has shown work regionally and internationally, including virtual exhibitions with PxP Contemporary and the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, the longest standing arts organization in the USA. She has completed residencies at SparkBox Studio in Picton, Ontario, Canada and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, USA.

    When she isn’t creating art or educating/inspiring Pittsburgh youth in her role as the Youth & Arts Program Coordinator for the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, Claira can be found with her crystals or deep in a good book. She is a lover of animals, the magic of everyday life, nature, good music, muppets, and warm beverages. Originally from just outside of Punxsutawney, PA, Claira holds a deep love and respect for the rural, wild Pennsylvania hills, and can tell you a good ghost story or two, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. 

    Artist Statement: 

    My work is an ode to the overlooked corners of my own American upbringing; a celebration of the resilient spirit that echoes through the landscapes and the lives lived within them. As a painter hailing from the northern Appalachian region, I immerse myself in the tapestry of its hills, hollers, and winding rivers that make their way around steel towns, wrapped in post-industrial rust and rot. Each stroke of my brush is a reverent dance with the play of light on the rugged terrain, an attempt to capture the soul of a land that has weathered the passage of time with both grace and hardship.

    My creative lens is intentionally focused on scenes of rural poverty, not as a commentary on despair, but as a testament to the strength and authenticity of a community often marginalized and forgotten, if not scorned. In these depictions of humble abodes from my own childhood, I find a profound beauty that speaks to the human experience, a celebration of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

    My landscapes go beyond backdrops; they are characters in a narrative that unfolds with each layer of pigment. The dilapidated barns, worn-out porches, and untamed wildness of the scenery all bear witness to lives lived with a connection to the land that is both visceral and spiritual. Through my work, I aim to bridge the gap between the viewer and these overlooked landscapes, fostering empathy and understanding.

    While my work may depict scenes of economic hardship, it is a celebration, not a lamentation. I invite the viewer to see beyond the surface, to recognize the inherent dignity and resilience in the faces of those who call these landscapes home. Through the evocative power of paint, I strive to ignite a dialogue about the forgotten, the marginalized, and the beauty that emerges from the struggle for survival and relevance.

    In the end, each piece a celebration of the authenticity that thrives in the heart of rural America, an affirmation of the indomitable spirit that continues to shape and define the forgotten landscapes of the nation, as well as an ode to the indigenous tribes who are the true stewards of the land we occupy.


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