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An Interview with Uba Owl, founder of the Alterrealism movement

Uba Owl with Gloria Steinem

The Beijing China government hosted the Beijing Art Biennale  – a major exhibition held in conjunction with the Beijing Olympics in 2008 – a phenomenally successful and historic experience. Artists from around the world were invited to exhibit and 14 artists from the United States were selected. Uba Owl, a local Berkeley, California artist was honored as one of the 14 artists. Uba was interviewed for this article by Steve Yamaguma, president of Design2Market, a Silicon Valley-based design firm and  former board member of the Arts Council Silicon Valley.

It was such an honor to be selected for this prestigious exhibition, how were you contacted and how did you feel?

It is an open competition.  I felt very, very exited about being chosen to show my painting, especially when I learned that I was the only California artist to go, and one of 11 USA artists .

Which piece was exhibited, and what was the significance of the piece?

The title of the painting is “Slippers”.  It shows women swimming, only heads visible.  But there is more to the painting – it is a metaphor about life.

Do you know any of the other artists that were selected and was there a theme that connected all of the art?

I did not know any other artist.  There was a sculptor selected from California, but she decided not to do it (she said she sold the piece).

The theme was Oympics.

What was the response of the Chinese people to your artwork?

I wish I knew!

Did you get a chance to visit the exhibition?

I was selected as a speaker for the conference that accompanied the show.

Unfortunately, I was notified too late and the ticket cost was too expensive because of Olympics.

Is your artwork still in the gallery?

The painting is back in my studio.

You coined the term “Alterrealism”, can you explain?

I have been asked many times to describe what I paint.  I tried to place my art in any existing movement, but could not.  At that point, I decided to come up with the new term.  My husband was the one that created it. 

What other art pieces are you working on today?

I finished working on the Barack Obama family series.  It came about when the group “EngageHer” asked me to paint her portrait for the New York Conference

Where they were hoping for her to be a key speaker.  While looking at her photographs, I was impressed by the open loving emotion in her family, and went on to paint 7 paintings altogether.

How did you get the name “Uba Owl”?

They are  two nicknames from my childhood.  My husband suggested using them, and I liked it.

What is the future like for “Uba Owl”?

I am very excited about it, the future is a mystery, like my art.

Any exhibits coming up in the near future?

Coming up a show in Philadelphia, PII Gallery, opening April 2nd.

Thank you again and all the best to you, Uba Owl.