Focus Artist of the Week: Ellie Barnet
Earlier this month we celebrated the opening of "An Art Legacy Reinvisioned" by Ellie Barnet. This exhibit will be on display at the gallery until August 12th and, if you haven't already, we hope you will stop in to see Ellie's beautiful work. We had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her life and work and we are so happy to be able to share her answers with you today. I am sure you will find Ellie Barnet as fascinating as we do!
Do you feel pressure to be a great artist because of your grandfather Will Barnet?
I’m asked this question often, and my answer is always no, not particularly. I will say however, I was always encouraged by him to pursue art. He was an amazing, kind and very supportive artist and teacher. He could see that I had a passion for creating art and he wanted me to feed that flame, but I never felt pressure to be great, its more that I was inspired to give it my all because that's what he did.
Did he teach you directly? And if not, how did you learn from him?
We spoke about art and art history all the time, so in that way he taught me directly every time we were together. We would go to museums and he would give mini lectures on pieces by old masters, or look through books and talk about what worked and what didn’t, and he would always ask my opinion on what he was working on, and would give me his opinion on what I was working on. The only time I remember being directly taught techniques by him was the first time I ever used oil paints. We sat on the deck at my mothers house and he showed me how to mix the paints and he sketched while I painted the view.
Your current body of work is very personal. One could describe the imagery as narrative. Are these paintings your memorials to your grandmother and grandfather? Was the act of painting a form of catharsis?
They definitely didn’t start out that way. The idea for these works came to me several years ago and the confidence and skill to try them began last summer while I was taking a course with the amazing Rebecca Campbell! When I started the series I knew my family would be a big part of the imagery, my grandmother especially. Of the ten that I started last summer, she was in three of them. However after my grandmother passed away last fall I did start to feel a need to paint her even more, and each time I got her out onto the canvas, I felt a certain relief, so it did end up becoming a way to overcome the grief, however unintentional.
In the painting titled Passage of Time there are candles. In the painting titled The Landscape Listens there is a window and the panes form what look to be a cross. Are the candles and the window pane intentional Catholic references or symbols?
The Catholic references are unintentional, although the figurative subjects in both paintings were at one point or another quite religious. I rarely put direct social references like that in my work intentionally, since I’m hoping to create work that is both meaningful to me but also that any viewer can relate to and find their own meaning in.
Why do you combine portraits with a landscape?
I’ve always painted strict landscapes and I’ve painted straight portrait type paintings since college, but I’ve always kept them separate. Merging them is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I like the push and pull, there are little moments that can pull you in all over the canvas, which I love, and its also quite a challenge to paint, which is the most fun!
Do you have a favorite piece of work?
In The Studio
Honestly, I’m super excited about all of them!
Thank you so much to Ellie Barnet for her thoughtful answers. Please visit our website to view her available pieces HERE or call or stop by for more information. We also hope to see you at the gallery so we can show you her pieces. You don't want to miss this exhibit!