Barbara Florence Weir was born in 1945 at what was formerly known as Bundy River Station in the region of Utopia, North East of Alice Springs. Her mother was the late Minnie Pwerle, renowned Utopia and Australian artist, and her father, an Irish station owner Jack Weir. Being of mixed heritage Barbara was hidden from welfare patrol from the age of two and ‘grown up’ by her Aunty, the most famed female Aboriginal artist of all time, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
At the age of nine Barbara was taken away from her family by welfare while collecting water at Utopia Station, now known as Utopia Homestead. She is one of the people known as the “stolen generation”.
Barbara was taken to Bungalow (now known as the Telegraph Station) to get cleaned up, and then taken to St Mary’s Home in Alice Springs. She was later moved to various children’s homes around Australia, first in Victoria, followed by the Receiving Home in Darwin and the Good Shepherds Home in Ipswich, before eventually returning to Darwin. During these years she was forced to speak English and forget her native tongue, and was told that her mother was dead. Though she lost contact with her family she was determined to return to them, to show she was alive and to reclaim her heritage.
In the late 1960’s Barbara was fortunate to find her family and returned to Utopia, the land of her birth, with her three children. The reunion was a happy one, but it was marred by the fact that Barbara was unable to communicate with the family, as she did not speak the language. Over the course of the next two and a half decades, Barbara had three more children and mastered both the Anmatyerre and Alyawarr languages and is one of the few people to do so from scratch.
On returning to her home and her unique relationship with Emily Kame Kngwarreye (who was then a well known batik artist) Barbara became interested in painting, and showed a flair and talent for the art. In 1994, Barbara and other Aboriginal women traveled to Indonesia to learn more about the art of batik. The Utopia women were well known for their beautiful batiks as this contributed to the Aboriginal community buying back the region of Utopia in 1974, and making it their own.
Barbara returned from Indonesia full of ideas for developing her own creative style. In 1996 Barbara travelled to Switzerland and Paris at the request of a gallery owner who commissioned some of Barbara’s work. The collection was a sellout and ensured Barbara’s place as a respected artist.
In 1996, after the death of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Barbara concentrated on developing her skill as an artist and soon attracted the attention of collectors by producing works that were contemporary in style, including her now famed Grass Seed paintings.
Inspired by a small grass found in Utopia called Lyaw, Munyeroo or Pigsweed, Barbara's Grass Seed paintings consist of a series of small brush strokes that overlap and weave to create a swaying effect. It is an energetic style exclusive to Barbara.
‘My Mother’s Country’, another renowned style of Barbara's, is a series of works testament to her skill as an artist. Completely different to the Grass Seed, these works are an intricate formation of dot work, with various background shapes representing different aspects of the country. This background can be very subtle or quite dramatic in appearance depending on the main theme but this series of works illustrates Barbara’s knowledge and respect for her country. Barbara's limited Countryside paintings depict similar subjects with subtle differences in colour and dot work.
In 2002, Barbara moved back to Central Australia. Keen to experiment with new designs and recreate masterpieces of the past, Barbara has all the resources at her fingertips thus allowing her creativity to fully reveal and develop into stunning works.
The Art Gallery of South Australia, SA
Ebes Collection, Workum, Netherlands
The Mbantua Gallery Collection, NT
Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, QLD
The University of Adelaide, SA
1995 January - Combined exhibition at DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
1995 August - Combined exhibition at Davis Avenue Gallery,Melbourne
1996 February - Combined exhibition at Framed Gallery,Darwin
1996 May - Combined exhibition at Gallery Woo Mang & Partners,Paris,France
1996 July - Combined exhibition at Flinders Lane Galley, Melbourne
1996 August - Combined exhibition at Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1996 November - Solo exhibition at Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
1997 January - Combined exhibition at Quadrivium Gallery Sydney Combined exhibition at DACOU Gallery Adelaide Participation in “Dreamings of the Desert” in Residence program for the Art Gallery of South Australia Combined exhibition at Hogarth Gallery in Sydney
1997 March - Solo exhibition at DACOU Gallery Adelaide Combined exhibition –Flinders Lane Gallery Melbourne
1997 June - Combined exhibition “Ten Years On” Sutton Gallery Melbourne
1997 July - Combined exhibition, Quadrivium Gallery Sydney
1997 August - Selected entrant in 14th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award for 1997
1998 February - Combined exhibition, “Women Painters of the Desert” FireWorks Gallery Brisbane
1998 March - ARTEXPO New York in association with Mandurah Ltd, New York
1998 May - Combined exhibition “Utopia IV” Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney Solo exhibition, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1998 June - Combined exhibition – SCECGS Redlands –Sydney
1998 August - Selected entrant for the 15th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for 1998
1998 September - Combined exhibition, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1998 December - Combined exhibition in The Adelaide Festival Theatre Exhibited extensively in Europe including: Art Felchlin – Zurich, Gallery Griffiouen, Belgium, Boomerang Gallery, Amsterdam, Kunsdcentoum Aalst, Belgium, Kunsdcentoum Dendermonde – Belgium, Frank Popko Gallery – Rees, Germany, Ebes Collection – Workum, Netherlands
1999 February - Combined exhibition – ‘Utopia’ – BMG Art Adelaide
1999 March - Combined exhibition “Bush Garden” Japingka Gallery Sydney
1999 May - Combined exhibition Utopia V – Quadrivium Gallery Sydney
1999 June - Combined exhibition – “Caring For Country” Tandanya Cultural Institute – Adelaide
1999 August - Solo Exhibition – Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1999 August - Combined exhibition – Gallery Savah – Sydney Barbara Weir Profile
1999 September - Combined exhibition – North Shore Fine Art – Sydney
1999 November - Solo exhibition ‘DreamWorks’ Gallery Savah – Sydney
1999 November - Solo exhibition Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, NT.
2000 February - Combined exhibition “An Affair to Remember” ArtSauce – Singapore
2000 March - Solo exhibition – “Gathering the Past” Redback Art Gallery Brisbane
2000 March - Combined Exhibition – “Artists of Utopia”, Tandanya, S.A
2000 April - Solo exhibition Gallery Savah, Sydney
2000 May - Solo exhibition, Mbantua Gallery
2000 June - Combined exhibition, Gordes, Vaucluse, France
2000 September - DACOU in association with AMP an official sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, hosted an exhibition of mixed Utopia art in the AMP building Sydney
2000 September - Combined exhibition at Mary Place Gallery, Sydney
2000 November - Selected entrant for the Redlands Westpac Art Prize Mosman Art Gallery, NSW
2000 November - ‘Women’s Business’, Australian Exhibition Centre Chicago. U.S.A
2001 February - Combined exhibition “Out of Utopia” Chapman Gallery Canberra
2001 February - Combined exhibition –Alison Kelly Gallery, Armadale, Victoria
2001 February - Selected artist to be included in the prestigious Young Presidents Organization University, Westin Hotel, Pitt Street, Sydney in association with Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2001 May - ‘Painting Country’ – combined exhibition at Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA
2001 May - ‘Desert Colour, My Country’ – combined exhibition Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin, NT
2001 May - ‘Women Artists of the Australian Desert’ – combined exhibition at Gallery 2021, Auckland, New Zealand
2001 June - ‘Two women – Dreamings’ Dreamtime Gallery Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA – exhibited with Gloria Petyarre.
2001 September - Solo exhibition, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002 Jan/Feb - ‘The Utopia Six’, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2002 July - ‘Generations’ Japingka Gallery WA
2002 August - Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002 Denmark, Paris and other areas in France.
2002 Exhibited twice in Japan
2002 Queen Victoria Building, Sydney
2002 New York with her mother, Minnie Pwerle’s work
2002 ‘United – Mother and Daughter’, Alison Kelly Gallery, Melbourne
2002 September - Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, TN, USA
2002 October - 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, Oregon USA
2002 October - Mary’s Wood, Portland, OR, USA
2002 October - Urban Wine Works, Portland, OR, USA
2003 March - Light Over Utopia, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA
2003 June/July - Creative Collaboration Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs NT
2003 June - Barbara Weir/Emily Kngwarreye, Westside Gallery, Marrickville, NSW
2003 September - New City Merchants, Knoxville, Tennessee USA
2003 September - Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee USA
2003 September - 'The Cove Gallery' Portland, Oregon USA
2003 October - Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland, Oregon USA
2004 July – August - Addison Road Gallery, Marrickville, NSW
2004 Aug-Sep - Mbantua Gallery USA exhibition: Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford, Greenwich, Philadelphia and New York
2005 February - Barbara Weir and Daughter, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, N.T
2005 2nd March - Invitational Private Exhibition at Madigans Restaurant, Alice Springs with Mbantua Gallery to meet with HRH Prince of Wales
2005 March - Barbara Weir, Addison Road Gallery, Marrickville, NSW
2005 May-June - Small Wonders(A collection of 1’x1’ and 1’x1½’ paintings), Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs, N.T
2004 Evolution of Utopia, Cultural Museum, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2007 January - Group exhibition, Robert Steele Gallery, NY, USA
2007 February - Standing on Ceremony, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide, SA
2007 October - Solo exhibition, Blowing in the Wind, Artmob, Hobart, Tas
2007 October - New Works from Utopia, Space Gallery, Pittsburg, PA, USA
2008 June - Dreamings – the Land, Outback Aboriginal Land, Caulfield, Vic
Discovery Media: June 2000 – Utopia Revisited - Film following Barbara Weir’s rediscovery of her family.