Many awards bear names that represent lives lived and generous gifts made, and I wanted to establish a funding opportunity that acknowledged my cousin Barbara Jean Guttenberg, who lived quietly and died of lung cancer on October 25, 2021.
Barbara grew up in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, and Woodland Hills, lived in Calabasas for 17 years, then made her final home in Tarzana. She was a true “valley girl” who loved everything about the valley. She became a make-up artist, working in the entertainment industry and local salons. With her knowledge, creativity, and tenacity, she developed her own skin care and cosmetics line, and her company, Canvas Cosmetics, flourished. As a makeup artist, she prioritized eyebrows long before they were a “thing,” and I received my first pair of clogs from her hand-me-downs. I looked up to and loved her, and her distinct aesthetic has influenced my approach to art and life.
My cousin had a wildly independent spirit and was a beautiful woman, both inside and out, who had so much compassion – she was bursting at the seams with compassion. She wanted to love and to be loved so deeply. She struggled with depression and seemed to be always searching for a comfortable place to settle into that would bring satisfaction, warmth, and peace of mind. But I don’t think that she ever found that place. I’m not saying that she never found moments of happiness – she did and felt those deeply. But underneath all of this was a hyper-sensitive soul with a palpable restlessness that could never be quashed, an itch for something that was never quite found.
Unbeknownst to me, in 2001, Barbara named me as her life insurance beneficiary; I only found out on the day of her funeral. My family also inherited her beloved ten-year-old cat, Blue Blue, and her recently adopted two-year-old miniature dachshund, Nanette (“Nettie,” née Anna – I “adjusted” her name to avoid confusion with another Anna, a cat). I allocated a modest part of the insurance money to celebrate and honor her kindness, thoughtfulness, warmth, and talent. Early on my cousin was discouraged by teachers; it only takes one to kill a student’s sense of academic worth; but it also only takes one to elevate a student’s spirit, and I am overflowing with delight to be able to present the Barbara Jean Guttenberg Memorial Award for excellence in portrait photography to five students, one each year, from 2022 through 2026.
I like to think that, if Barbara could see the impact of her gift, she would experience the peace of mind, satisfaction, and warmth she craved in life.