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Meet David Barnes

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Barnes.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I decided to become an artist quite young. I remember when I was about 5 years old someone gave me a piece of plasticine clay. As I played with it I suddenly noticed that it had begun to resemble a face. I thought, “If I just change a few things it will look just like a face;” but as I began to mold the clay the image of the face began to disappear. The harder I tried, the worse it looked. Finally, in a fit of anger, I smashed the clay with my fist. At that moment I realized, “This is what I want to do with my life.”

I had indulgent parents who gave me art lessons as a kid. They were less thrilled when I told them I wanted to study art in college. We compromised and I went to the University of New Hampshire as a liberal arts student. In the end I received a BFA in Painting from UNH. After taking time off to surf and become quite ill for a couple years, I finally managed to get an MFA from UMASS Dartmouth. Since then I have been working in MA and living in Rhode Island. Over the years I’ve shown my work on Newbury St. and in the SoWa galleries. My current studio is in Bristol RI, which has a surprisingly vibrant art scene.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m primarily a painter. My work is representational; but not realistic. The execution of my work is probably the most remarked upon aspect of my paintings. I’m sort of a painter’s painter in the sense that the quality of the brushwork is front and center. I generally paint thin and with an economy of strokes. The intended effect is an image which simultaneously looks solid and impermanent. Sort of like a magician who tells you how he does a trick ahead of time; but it’s still impressive when you see it.

In recent years I have been painting subject matter that I feel captures the contemporary “zeitgeist” (to use an overused word). I cull images from the internet or from my everyday life and paint them in a way that points to life’s transient nature. It seems to me that there is a sense of precarity in our collective society. Like everyone is holding their breath and waiting for the other boot to drop. Subject matter of recent paintings has included: parts of industrial landscapes, shadows of fleeing people, puddles and debris. Oh yes, and skate parks. I’ve been painting a lot of skate park imagery of late.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
I feel like I’ve been fielding this question a lot lately. Mostly from students. I spent many years believing that I was a failure. From the “making a living” point of view, most artists are failures. Even well-known artists often don’t make a living from their artwork alone. I think you’re a successful artist if you simply find a way to keep making art. To not give in or give up. To live a creative life is the most important thing.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Wish I could say, “The Whitney Museum,” but probably the best way to get a sense of my work is to go to my website: I have some work in the Atelier Gallery in Newport RI. My next big shows will be in 2019 at the Provincetown Museum on the Cape and at the Jamestown Art Center in RI. Of course, if you’re in Bristol RI, look me up.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
David Barnes

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1 Comment

  1. roger kizik

    September 14, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Ha …ha! Loved this – you’re channeling Baudelaire!! Well leavened with ironic humor [another key for art survival], though you certainly deserve more exposure [legal, of course].
    Keep up the engaging and passionate work!

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