Focus Artist of the Week: Mary Barnes

This week our focus artist is the very talented Mary Barnes. Mary Barnes is currently on display at the gallery as a part of our "Artifacts" exhibition.

Barnes first starting come to Maine in the 1960's to visit her grandmother on Mount Desert Island where she swam in the sea and climbed the mountains with her sisters and father. It was there, she states on her website that, "my visual world was formed which I have shared through teaching, raising children, and the making of art". Her resume is incredibly impressive with a M.F.A from Columbia University, many museum, one person and juried exhibitions as well as an extensive teaching career and community service work (you can see the list in its' entirety on the Mary Barnes section of our website HERE). Needless to say, we are both thrilled and honored to be showcasing Mary's work at the gallery.

We presented Mary Barnes with a few questions and we are so excited to share her answers with you today. It is a real treat to get a more in-depth look at such a talented artist.

How long have you painted on Mylar and why does the substrate fascinate you?

I first began working on mylar when I was awarded a NEA grant for a proposal of 13 drawings that would be hung in a space and viewed from the front and back back in 1993. The idea was that you would 'walk' through the poem and view it forwards and backwards. Over the years, I continue to be attracted to the idea that I am drawing on a membrane that can be drawn on both sides effecting the depth of field and the illusion of space. Now I frame the drawings in a conventional manner letting the effect of the two-sided process be part of what the viewer discovers while looking straight at the art.

You have long had an interest in literature or poetry and its intersection with your art. Does this new series of bird paintings owe its inspiration to a literary reference?

I have worked at various times with poetry. It is an interesting experience because now there are three in the studio - the poem, the artist and the drawing surface. The triangle is more complex. Through my visual imagery, I am exploring the emotional impact of the written work on my soul. I am depicting the space between the poem and me. There is new tension and it is very different from how I normally work which is from memory using my intuition - a direct one on one. These new works are not directly related to any particular piece of literature.

What do the crows (if in fact they are) symbolize for you?

Yes they are crows.

The crow is unique - smart, haunting, noisy, used in literature as a metaphor often and is recognizable by all. Everyone of us has heard that lone crow squawk from the top of a tree or had a flock of them swoop down through our backyard. Their blackness and presence are haunting and powerful. It would have been so different if I had chosen a pigeon or seagull even an eagle. So the choice was intentional for the experience of the bird and the commonality of knowledge by us all not directly for what it symbolizes that we need each to decide for ourselves. The crow gives the viewer a place to start and think.

Thank you so much to Mary Barnes for giving us the story behind her work and such insightful answers. Please stop by the gallery to see Mary's exhibition or visit our website HERE to see more of her work.

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