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Barbara Kline Stretches Viewers’ Imagination with her Art
Thursday, December 29, 2022


A grand piano sitting on a beach.

A horse and rider riding out of the pages of a book.

Draft horses grazing behind a set of piano keys.

Hailey artist Barbara Kline always confounds the imagination with her creative fine art photography, which has won many awards around the country.

And you can see Kline’s gelatin silver, hand-colored photographs from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30, at Anderson Architecture above Friesen+Lantz Gallery at 320 1st Avenue N. in Ketchum. The exhibition will be on view during Friday’s New Year’s Gallery Walk.

Kline didn’t set out to become an artist. She studied law at the University of Florida-Gainesville. But disillusioned, she took a year off to work at a law office. And, when her mother suggested she follow her passion of taking photographs, she decided to trade law school to study fine art.

“I worked with internationally known photographer Jerry Uelsmann, who mentored me to do multiple image photographs. He started doing them in the 1960s so he was quite well-known for that style. You don’t see a lot of such photographs around—it’s very difficult to do, and in the 1970s a lot of photographers didn’t have access to darkrooms where they could do that kind of work. It wasn’t like today where everything is digital and manipulated. I like working in the darkroom, even today.”

Kline moved to the Wood River Valley 40 years ago after visiting the Gem State at the invitation of a friend who told her how beautiful it was.

“I knew nothing about Idaho. But she was one of the top surfers in the world at the time. So, I thought, if you like it, it must be nice. I fell in love with it, packed up the truck and came out here. I’ve gone all over the country doing fine art festivals and I still love coming home—it’s the air and the people. I come over the border and I just breathe a sigh of relief.”

Settling in mid-valley, Kline began making her photomontage hand-colored photographs which she then showed nationally and internationally. She printed black and white medium format negatives in a wet darkroom using discontinued Kodak infrared film and multiple enlargers to create surreal photographs that challenge viewers to open their imagination to a wide range of possibilities in nature and architecture.

That includes birds flying through a room and clouds taking the place of floors. Often, she paints the photographs with oils, adding color schemes that stretch the imagination even more.

Kline’s portfolio includes a surreal music room which boasts a grand piano as birds fly overhead in clouds juxtaposed across the ceiling. Her “Tree of Knowledge” features aspen trees with books hanging on branches.

A piano sitting on Cannon Beach with Haystack Rock in the background and purple-tinted clouds overhead captivated one woman who told her she had just spread her father’s ashes on Cannon Beach and that he was a piano player.

“I get a lot of great stories like that where people identify with the imagery for one reason or another,” said Kline.

Kline has made a couple images utilizing the iconic white Reinheimer barn in the field at the southern entrance of Ketchum. One features orange poppies with purple mountain majesty in the background. Another includes a lamb in the foreground.

“We pass by the Reinheimer Ranch two or three times a day going in and out of town and it’s such a nice iconic peaceful restful place, and we’re so lucky it’s always going to be that way, that it’s never going to change,” said Kline.

“When I was in the darkroom trying to decide what to do with it, I included poppies I’d photographed in the backyard. I added the sheep after spend three days bottle feeding orphan sheep for friends of ours at the Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii. Sonny, the most photogenic, was so friendly and sweet. While you normally see cows at the ranch, they do have the sheep easement there, so I added Sonny to the picture and that’s how Sonny came to Sun Valley.”

Kline’s “Cathedral Doors” was chosen for the cover of Alice Walker’s autobiographic story “The Same River Twice.”

And, over the years she has shown other works of art at countless art fairs in places like Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and Bellevue, Wash., where a couple hundred thousand people see her work each weekend and she has won countless ribbons. She also has been a regular at the juried Sun Valley Arts and Crafts Festival and the Ketchum Arts Festival which, she says, are much more relaxed.

“They’re the only ones I do anymore because I’m semi-retired. I do maybe three pieces a year, concentrating on local imagery,” said Kline who recently constructed pieces featuring the Sun Valley Opera House and Sun Valley Lodge. “It’s less work and less travel, and it gives me the opportunity to go into the darkroom, which I really love.”

She still gets emails praising her for black and white pieces she created decades ago.

“I’m just happy my art can take viewers beyond just looking at a piece of art,” she said.





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