Detail, Tzimtzum – Transcendence, 2015/16, 4 x 8 feet, 122 x 244 cm

” … At a diverging, but seemingly urgent level of inquiry, issues of environment emerge. How do you convey ugliness and poison in a media for which color and material retain their visual and tactile appeal? Barbara Heller’s One Way navigates this paradox most effectively. A flooded urban landscape – New Orleans? – still alarming in its colorful presentation, features a pelican, clearly struggling, in the foreground. Inset details illustrating contaminated conditions of earth and sea complete the portrait, effectively infusing toxic foreboding within a large screen of brightness.”                                                                                                                               – Charles Rosenblum, review of Fiberart International 2016, Surface Design Journal

“In Heller’s recent and, I believe, most powerful works, avian imagery – dead birds or their skeletal remains (imaged and actual) are metaphors for the massive harm that we humans are visiting not only upon each other but upon all life on our beleaguered planet. Her new tapestries especially address the ruination of our oceans and water systems. In One Way, an oil-drenched pelican, its image sourced from photos of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, flaps its wings in distress against a backdrop of a flooded Midwestern town. Global climate change and catastrophic oil spills are conflated here, both seen as the destructive consequences of our heedless production and consumption of fossil fuels. In Detritus and Midway #2, Heller addresses our ubiquitous use and reckless disposal of plastics, a problem so vast and widespread that it threatens not only marine bird life in the Pacific but the very survival of our oceans, already compromised by over-fishing, carbon emissions, and, again, global warming. These works, which initially compel us with their gorgeous colours and intriguing forms, eventually reveal themselves as messages of horror and alarm.”
— Robin Lawrence, catalogue essay, Falling from Grace, 2014

“Barbara Heller’s Shiva Dances has the most ferocious beauty. The deep space of a distant nebula churns and smokes fiery stardust. As in the Hindu legend, destruction and creation are part of the same dance. The exquisite beauty of the work gives solace and hope.”
— Barbara Setsu Pickett, Fiberarts Magazine, Summer 2011

“In the Future Reliquaries series, I see a visual counterpart to Sennett’s praise of craft mastery. For example, in the design for Ikat Algorrithm… Heller drew inspiration from an ikat in her personal collection and a circuit board she extracted from a discarded computer, part of which she stitched to the finished work. Encoded tie-dyed warp patterns hatch into diagrams of circuit boards in a play of color and outline, the reliquary hand offering resolution of religious, craft, and digital dichotomy in a gesture of blessing. As the title of the series suggests, the past is just your future lived. Heller draws the viewer into the realm of magic, and reminds us that all genius and invention is born of the work of the hand. We can progressively deepen our respect and attention to our body and to what we produce. In her own words she chooses to approach designing and weaving with more joy…
— Ruth Jones, Tapestry Topics, the American Tapestry Alliance, Fall 2009

“Many of us have known Barbara’s work for some time and have seen her in her studio, The Fibre Art Studio, on Granville Island. To see so many of her large tapestries at once in such a sympathetic space was almost overwhelming. The impact of the imagination, layers of significance and interpretation, and the supreme quality of the skill of creation of the actual weaving was both inspiring and humbling to those of us who have the temerity to call ourselves tapestry weavers.”
— Virginia Baldwin of Barbara Heller: Dreams, Visions, Memories, Elliott Louis Gallery, 2007

“The two series of tapestries discussed in this exhibition book — Cover Ups and Revelations — are the strongest and unquestionably the most memorable anti-war, pro-humanity images woven by internationally acclaimed Vancouver artist Barbara Heller…”
— Paula Gustafson, Galleries West, Summer 2006

“…Heller’s stunning tapestries carefully draw the line (in both senses of the term) between myth and history, past and present, art and craft, the individual and the community, the artist and her world, again and again underscoring the intrinsic interdependence of each binary pair. What sense, their work suggestively asks, can one have without the other? Where do the specific and the universal, the local and the global intersect?… What do we hide from or seek in both others and ourselves in the masquerade of everyday existence? What meaning does an individual have outside the community?…                                                                                                      Equally committed to fulfilling her fair share of responsibility to mend our world, in the Jewish sense of Tikun Olam, Barbara Heller, too, chooses to imbue an ancient art with new aesthetic, political and spiritual dimensions —a radical move that further positions both artists as leaders among a growing international movement whose aim it is to restore tapestry, mosaics, and other art practices similarly demoted to the status of craft or decorative art to the recognition they thoroughly enjoyed before the Enlightenment…                                                                             Heller’s approach is rather inductive. Initially enticing the viewer “by the tactile beauty of the yarns and the image itself, allowing time for the message behind the image to be absorbed” (personal statement), she slowly builds upon the constitutive elements of a nascent image and concept, allowing for the paradigmatic emergence of the larger whole to become manifest gradually throughout the piece and cumulatively throughout the series.”                                 — Elena Feder, Barbara Heller: Cover Ups and Revelations, June 2005

“To act as a mediator requires an ability to accept as valid more than one point of view and to show alternative paths to resolution that all parties can agree to. In tapestry, politics partakes of an historical tradition that willingly shows the mutilations of war, the betrayals of kings, and the apocalyptic nature of fate in a way that is much like theatre. Both Heller and Lurçat [French artist who revived the tapestry tradition after WW2] take the stage as mediators moving between real-world events and old-world history. To succeed in mediating a consensus requires an understanding of both the world around them and the strength of their medium. And neither of them could know in advance with any certainty whether the communities they spoke to would agree to discussion and be able to see the possibilities their mediations provide.”
— Christine Laffer, Barbara Heller: Cover Ups and Revelations, 2005

“Barbara Heller in previous series used historical images. Now she distills ideas from newscasts selecting images that comment on humankind’s historical struggle to live in dignity. Using tapestry with mixed media she expresses horrific implications resulting from international events. She weaves adults in scenes where they seem alien to their environment; children lost in poverty created by war; destroyed buildings become carcasses of hate; fragments of birds’ wings and bones imply inexplicable loss of life, freedom and joy. Initially the soft qualities of tapestry mask her terrifying visions. When the full impact of her intent is seen, the effect is ominous. It is demonic — not on her part, but what her art represents. Tapestry allows Heller to give reality to the unspeakable while drawing the viewer to wallow in texture and colour before soliciting contemplation and a sense of responsibility to form the future…
[Her] life experiences and perspectives lead [her] to believe that allegiance to country, ethnicity and religion can be fool’s false truths. Instead [her] art takes[her] into an international arena of politically sensitive artists where historical art, media, images and ideas applied to current events become powerful tools for social statements.”
— Letia Richardson, June 2004

“Barbara’s socially and historically conscious subjects portrayed in her classic and inventive tapestry techniques results in tapestries of mystical grandeur.”
— Dorrine Stolar

“Heller’s tapestries raise more questions than they answer, but they are provocative and disarming in their beauty, and thus have great potential for subversive communication.”
— Sharon Marcus, lecture for American Tapestry Alliance Conference