As I mentioned in the inaugural post for this project, the artist whose work graces the cover of Sampler is Lu Ann Barrow. I find Mrs. Barrow’s story to be quite intriguing indeed.
When Sampler was published in 1986, Barrow was 52 years old. Despite having completed her BFA at UT-Austin under the supervision of William Lester 30 years prior, her biography in the cookbook claims that her art took a backseat to marriage (to architect David Barrow, Jr.) and raising two sons (David III and Thomas). The copy reads, “When one sees her works one may wonder why they have not seen a Barrow original or heard of her previously. She has a limited amount of time available for painting, and numbers of finished canvases are not her goal.”
This closing sentiment scans as a bit defensive, does it not? Barrow was either fed up with being asked why she didn’t produce more art or she was heading off such inquiries at the pass. She is quoted in her biography as preferring to stay close to home, rather than traveling to show her work in places like Oklahoma and New Mexico. Against the backdrop of 1980s power feminism, Barrow stakes a position that privileges the home, family, and domestic duties over a high-flying career (but there are no recipes attributed to her in the Artist Recipes section, either).
By all appearances, Barrow has been quite prolific over the past couple of decades, and her work, which is decidedly in the folk-art school and depicts domestic and rural concerns, has appeared in some high-profile contexts. The Austin Museum of Art hosted an exhibit of her work in 2006, and as recently as 2011, Barrow has headlined shows in Fort Worth and Dallas.
This background information about Barrow is what makes her role as “starring” artist in Sampler (the section dividers in the cookbook are thick pages with reproductions of paintings by individual Texas artists, with their biographies on the backs of the pages) so interesting. Here is a woman who earned a BFA, deliberately training for an art career but backseating it in favor of being a wife and mother (no judgment here, y’all), and whose subjects are largely women engaging in some sort of domestic activity. Her work adorns the cover of a cookbook composed of recipes attributed mostly to women identified as Mrs. Husband’s Name (Her First Name in Parentheses).
I am tempted to argue that Sampler reflects some vestigial conservatism among certain segments of Austin society in the mid-1980s. I wonder what a community cookbook compiled by the Art Alliance Austin would look like today; I reckon that Mrs. Husband’s Name trope would be absent.