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Mural, mural on the wall

Wilson says her art is part inspiration, part immigration.

Muralist and new islander Barbara Wilson, who introduces her work with an open studio Feb. 29, may be joking when she credits her art career to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But when she and her husband traded England for the States in 1997, and only her husband was able to obtain a work visa, Wilson reconsidered the painting she’d back-burnered for a regular paycheck.

“In England I’d been an accountant,” she said. “Art had been important but it had been pushed aside. Now I could concentrate, courtesy of the INS.

“They haven’t been good for much else, but they did push me back into a career in fine art.”

After a false start in Southern California – the firm whose job offer brought the family to the States announced they were laying off their work force at the celebratory dinner for new hires – the family relocated upstate.

There Wilson, who had studied art at Norwich School of Art and Goldsmith’s University in London, found her creative niche.

A friend who’d invited the Wilsons to dinner was lamenting the blank wall in her dining room where the view of the nearby Napa valley vineyards should be.

‘“She said, ‘I’ve always wanted a house with a vineyard view, but I couldn’t afford it,’” Wilson said. “So I, full of tequila, said, ‘I’ll paint one for you.’ It didn’t scare me at all. I just started painting.”

Wilson painted an arched window overlooking rows of grapes.

The mural took just a few days to complete, and Wilson didn’t give the project more thought until she got a call from an acquaintance of the woman for whom she’d done the mural.

Word of mouth brought more people to her, and Wilson found she was able to make her living as an artist.

Working in people’s homes suited the gregarious Wilson, and consulting with clients on the commissioned pieces was fun.

“I think as an artist it is too easy to become detached from the regular community,” she said. “Painting murals gives me a social element.”

Wilson opened windows onto Tuscan fields and Caribbean beaches. She “grew” climbing plants up walls and transformed one entry-way into a jungle.

One of her more quirky murals featured a car crashing through a bathroom wall – the imminent head-on a somewhat disconcerting

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