Michael Barnes was born in 1969 in Michigan of the United States. He grew up outside the small town of Ithaca, where his family lived on a wooded plot in the midst of farmland. This wooded plot contained a 19th century family cemetery where he spent much of his youth playing and fostering his imagination for later ventures in his artistic life. He went on to receive his BFA from Alma College, Michigan in 1991 and his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1996, both with a focus on Printmaking.
Michael developed a passion for the medium of lithography during his graduate studies at Iowa and has focused on this process for much of his work since. His research seeks to document and retain traditional methods of this fine art printing medium, while investigating means of integrating them with new media. His art has been exhibited and has received awards in venues worldwide. His research and artistry have taken him to such places as Germany, France, Serbia, Belgium, Italy, China, Estonia, Poland, and New Zealand, and he was recently supported by a Fulbright Specialist Grant. Michael now resides in St. Charles, Illinois, near Chicago. He is the head of the printmaking area at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he is a recent recipient of the Presidential Research, Scholarship, and Artistry Professorship.
The Steindruck München Series
The recent series of lithographic prints created by Michael Barnes will be premiered in October at Brumfield Gallery in Astoria, Oregon. was begun during a residency at the Lithografiewerkstatt Steindruck München studio in the Münchner Künstlerhaus, Munich, Germany in 2018. The pieces began as the key black and white images and were developed in color over the following two years and just completed in September 2020.
The imagery of this series explores ongoing themes in Barnes’ work, which addresses, in part, the destructive nature and absurdities that so readily prevail for humankind, along with themes of mortality, morality, and the philosophical questions of existence in general. The images are concerned with environment, social decay leaning towards an inward and isolated path, and cynicism about the historical evolution of so-called civilization and its effects upon the world and its inhabitants.
The two-month period of working in the Altstadt of Munich brought new inspiration to this series. Daily walks through the city, its museums, and the beautiful Englisher Garten evoked images of daily life experiences and exploration and inevitably seeped into the imagery that he was developing during this period.
Additionally, a new theme emerged during this time exploring traditional folk lore. This was inspired by the stories and images of the Brothers Grimm, which came about during a trip into the Alps which passed through the small town of Oberammergau. In this town many of the houses are painted with murals (Lüftlmalerei) of traditional folk lore, scenes of Bavarian life and religious traditions.
On one of the homes was painted the mural of the four animals from Brothers Grimm’s “The Town Musicians of Bremen”. The animals are standing on each other’s backs in the famous scene where they all make their various calls and scare robbers from a farmhouse that was encounter on their path to Bremen. This encounter led Barnes to further explore these tales and in which he found many parallel themes to his own work.
In Barnes’ interpretation, “On the Road to Bremen” he embellishes the travels of the four animals, who stop to take a picnic outside of the farmhouse just after they have just scared off the robbers, (the town musician animals creatively altered in Barnes’ piece to reflect his own imagination and world of creatures). These tales, especially many of the older and original versions speak to many elements close to Barnes’s work in dealing with human nature and the ethics of life and morality, often in a rather dark manner. In this piece, he notes the point that unexpected experiences may happen on any life journey that may lead to a change in direction – in the case of the story, the animals, who all met originally by chance and shared life conditions, end up settling peacefully in the farmhouse they encountered and abandoning their original plan to moving to Bremen to be town musicians.
Maggie Taylor is an artist who lives the edge of a sun-drenched prairie populated by cows, alligators and birds on the outskirts of Gainesville, Florida. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1961, and moved to Florida at the age of 11. In 1983 she received a philosophy degree from Yale University, and in 1987, a master's degree in Fine Art, studying photography, from the University of Florida.
She began her career focusing on still life, a subject she still returns to in a reimagined form. Since 1996 she developed her practice around the manipulation of photography to create original digital compositions using Photoshop and other programs. She was, for a time, married to Jerry Uelsmann, an early exponent of photomonage in America. In 1995, Adobe's creative director tried to convince Uelsmann to try out Photoshop. He didn't like it, but Maggie embraced it as the main tool in creating her surrealist work. Breaking new ground, she became a pioneer on the field of digital arts. Maggie Taylor's work is featured in Adobe Photoshop Master Class: Maggie Taylor's Landscape of Dreams, published by Adobe Press in 2005.
The medium has provided a way in which to marry personal recollection with an imagined world. She draws from other magic story tellers such as Anderson, Lewis Carol and the Brothers Grimm. Layering and manipulating imagery, texture and color fields, it is a process of addition and reduction which draws on the principals of painting. At its heart though, it is still an art form based in photography. Elements are collected through scans of old photos and materials or photography directly taken by the artist. The resulting images appear to be impossible snap shots outside of time and reality of in an impossible world.
Her digital composites have been widely exhibited and have been collected by many museums including: The Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; The George Eastman House, Rochester; Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville; Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas; The High Museum, Atlanta; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans; The Art Museum, Princeton University; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; and The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara.
In Duy Huynh's poetic and contemplative paintings the artist has developed a vocabulary of symbolism with recurring images that relate to physical or spiritual travel. Born in Vietnam, themes of geographical and cultural displacement are prevalent in Huynh’s artwork. Ethereal characters maintain a serene but precarious balance, in a surreal or dreamlike setting. He attempts to literally and symbolically connect the fluid patterns in nature with that of human made aspirations. His goal is to nurture a visual language that evokes a sense of wonderment while celebrating the fragile nature of life.
Duy Huynh came to the United States with his family as refugees in 1981. Described as "boat people", this epithet remains in the artist's consciousness and is sometime directly referred to within his imagery. Despite the challenges of assimilation and an enduring sense of displacement, growing up in southern California proved to be transformative. Here he was introduced to art through murals, graffiti, comic books and animation.
Duy studied illustration a University of North Carolina, and fell in love with painting. Following graduation, he pursued a career as a fine artist, and quickly became a full-time artist showing in several galleries around the country. He has explored a variety of avenues and applications for painting, including public murals and painting live on stage in collaborating with writers and musicians. He explains that, “it’s important to me that my work is accessible and far-reaching.” Artist Statement
As someone whose first language was not English, I have long been fascinated with the multi-layered ambiguities and nuances of certain words and phrases. As a visual artist, I enjoy taking things too literal, using the language of symbols and metaphors in conjunction with puns and hybrid words to add yet another layer of mystery to the narrative. Images that often reoccur in my paintings, such as moths/butterflies, boats, trains, musical instruments, flowers, trees, umbrellas, etc. have become a personal vocabulary used in deliberate combinations to hopefully evoke introspection and a sense of wonderment.
At the core of my work is a search for balance and continuity, usually between two or more mysteries. The characters I create often float (literally) somewhere between science and spirituality, memory and mythology, structure and spontaneity, ephemeral and eternal, humorous and profound, connectivity and non-attachment. The intent isn’t necessarily to provide enlightenment, but to celebrate the quest itself.
Doug Whitfield is fascinated with the concept of individual perception of reality, dreams and alternative realities. His approach to painting is instinctive, engaged and engaging. There is whimsy combined with real-world grit in the subject matter. In his dancing couples and shortened figures he questions the notions of loveliness and the grotesque - creating endearing protagonists that fall outside the norms of accepted beauty. He explains, “My compositions are dreamlike; they blur myth, history and fantasy together. My characters gesture to you dramatically and strike romantic poses on the stage of my fantastic theater. They are cognizant of you, just as you are of them. In my ambiguous dramas, the beautiful and grotesque seem but two sides of the same coin. The point of these juxtapositions, other than for your delight, is to engage the power of your imagination to reconcile the ambiguity. My performers beg you to step onto their stage and play along with them in my fantastic theater.”
Doug Whitfield was born into a family of artists in 1945, Cleveland, Ohio. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Mohawk Valley Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University. He received his AAS in Design in 1965 and BFA in Painting in 1968. Whitfield's work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions throughout the United States, and in Europe and Asia.
Karen Abel's hand-built and slab-built ceramic structures often reflect homes, agricultural buildings and simplified bird forms. The flat planes of her construction provide a canvas for imagery that is incised and glazed on to the surface. Communicating a narrative is central to her work. Stories often emerge organically from the marks created by the clay texturing process. Groupings of multiple buildings provide a multi-frame structure through which the story can develop, and the interaction of bird groupings serve as a device to reflect human idiosyncrasies.
We wanted to get to know this artist a little better and she was kind enough to answer a few questions, with the resulting interview.
Why Houses? I’m Pacific NW born, bred and based. I’ve been blessed with a life rich in stories of family, friends, neighborhoods and community thus home and hearth themes have always resonated strongly. Houses, windows, doors, walls and stairs are overflowing with symbolism and meaning for most people – whether a protected place or a broken place. My challenge is thus to leave enough ambiguity in my structure’s shape and imagery so that others can complete the story with their own memories and emotions. I may think I have built a simple garden shed until the buyer starts to tell me about their grandfather’s sod house in Nebraska. Rural structures extend the symbolism with feelings of nostalgia and history and are interesting forms to replicate. I tend to be upbeat and enjoy tongue and cheek humor – houses, farms, communities, cul-de-sacs, animals and birds overflow with possibilities.
Your approach to glazing is very painterly…. do you do preparatory drawings or just work directly on the clay? I keep a sketchbook in which I gather ideas for structure shapes, approaches to color, and drawings of individual elements that become part of the overall image. However, I rarely plan out an entire scene because ideas and stories often emerge out of the texturing process; My work seems best if I can keep the etching and glazing process as loose and spontaneous as possible and not overthink things.
What other artists do you admire? I love the work of Dennis Campay. This contemporary Atlanta-based artist uses disorderly drawings and marks in his paintings of cities and street scenes. Often a quirky black bull pops up – sometimes next to a phonebooth. How fun it that?
The extraordinary surfaces on the ceramic vessels of Sam Hall and Craig Underhill, both contemporary artists in the UK, humble me and remind me I have a lot of development left in my own creative practice. Are there any artists or art movements that you feel have influenced your work? Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky pushed the used of color and line but I am most struck with Klee’s comment that a “drawing is simply a line going for a walk”. I love taking lines for a walk around and around my structures either with incised line or with wire. Is there recurring imagery in your work? And, is there any special meaning attached to that imagery? Birds, crows, cows, chairs, ladders and telephone lines crop up often. Birds, especially crows, mimic human idiosyncrasies and thus are great fodder for our own home and hearth stories. Cows have so much expression in their lack of expression that it’s easy to fill in the blank with our own thoughts. Plump little songbirds are sweet until they lined up and become nasty little gossips. I’m attracted to imagery that is often slightly humorous and gives the viewer a jumping off place to develop their own stories – and maybe their own title to the piece. Can you give a brief description of your technique? I work out three dimensional ideas for structures using stiff paper templates and a lot of masking tape to hold those shapes together. [Basically, I get to play around with paper houses!] That paper becomes the templates use to cut shapes from very stiff flat slabs of clay. Construction of the clay house is followed immediately with the application of texture by troweling on an uneven layer of moist clay and making marks, scratches and drawn imagery. Colored slip (liquid clay) is also added at this time. After the structure is bisque fired, I rub black stain into the textures and incised designs and apply very sheer glazes. Both these techniques really make the incised imagery pop. I’ll fire the piece two or three times to get the desired color wash.
Mary Alayne Thomas paints women adorned with flowers and birds, surrounded by animals. They are caught in a moment of contemplation and often are pensive. She is rendered as a part of the overall composition, no more important that the flowers and birds in her hair, the mink in her embrace, or bear at her side.
Mary Alayne is concerned with relaying a pure an innocent response to nature, drawing on childhood experiences. She explains she is, “constantly inspired by the wildlife, forests and dark beauty of my home in Portland Oregon, and childhood memories of wandering the mesas in Santa Fe continue to compel my work. I strive to capture those magical ephemeral moments we all experience, real or imagined.”
Raised by two full time artists, Mary Alayne began her career early, illustrating children's magazines at the age of eleven. After much experimentation with many mediums, she discovered the harmonious combination of encaustic with watercolor, refining the process to her current technique - a complex layering of encaustic and silkscreen over a watercolor painting. She says, “There is a sense of mystery, a softness that emanates from the floating art forms within the transparent, waxy surface. It creates an atmospheric work, a dreamy ethereal expression.”
Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley’s paintings are rooted in marine biology, ecology and the natural environment, but her approach is influenced by a myriad of diverse aesthetic concerns and storytelling formats. Art Nouveau, kitsch, Asian art, and psychadelia provide visual cues, while childhood nostalgia, fairy tales, histories and an “Alice in Wonderland” sensibility drive the content.
Through experimentation with combining watercolor, inks, acrylics, glitter, sequins and gold leaf, and with this plethora of stimuli, she has developed her own style to depict animals, plants, landscapes, water and a general feeling of lushness. She paints temperate rainforests and tropical plants with psychedelic properties. She explains that, “I’m often trying to create a primordial sense of magic, to regain the feeling of wonder I had as a child adventuring in the mossy Redwoods alone or with animals.”
Faith, family, self-improvement, hard work and above all… kindness – these are the ingredients that combine to create Emily C. McPhie's compelling paintings. The daughter of artist James C. Christensen, she is the product of a happy family that encouraged the development of imagination, self-reflection and the pursuit of knowledge. She explains, “In my childhood home, Imagination was touted as the most precious faculty one could foster. I was raised under the influence of my dad’s “Land a little left of reality.” It’s a wonderful place where imagination is king.”
The desire to become an artist was assured by childhood visits to art museums, watching her father work, and early recognition of her work in high school. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2001. She now has her own family and hurriedly interprets the emotions of motherhood and the ever changing relationships with her children. "Translating those thoughts and emotions into images gives me clarity, and I find I want to document them before my perception changes."
Her work uses symbolism and is of the magic realism tradition, but it is also rooted deeply in fundamental shared truths. It explores experience of family, relationships, and establishing ones own persona within the world. Who am I? How do I fit in? What is important to me? She often uses the direct gaze to connect the viewer with the work, which gives us mixed signals of familiarity and separateness. She describes the activity of painting as a necessity. “I need to create, to imagine, and to make intangible and ineffable ideas and experiences touchable, viewable, and beautiful.”
Cary Weigand is an intuitive sculptor working in clay. She works with a muted color pallet to create quietly powerful imagery that reflects a holistic philosophical view of the world. The human and animal protagonists in her work are depicted with a focus on the emotion and inner life of the subject rather than a literal depiction of physical form. She begins with a heartfelt concept of an experience or thought, which is developed through the manipulation of material. The process of layering clay is a contemplative act that takes time and moves the piece on through a changing narrative to a moment in time where the form and meaning is resolved.
Her work is imbued by symbolic detail, spiritual traditions and mythologies drawn from childhood experience of growing up an a religiously diverse island. She remembers, “Visions of shrines ~ Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic ~ all within a block of each other, surrounded by ocean. I want to express their relationship with one another, but it’s even more about the way the ocean moves than the stories themselves”. She uses symbolic elements to explore death, rebirth and transition. This quietly spiritual work can often be interpreted as melancholic. When asked about this the artist responds, “I hope that what may appear as sadness is instead understood as quiet reverence. I hope for my work to be about listening and trying to understand instead of displays of power.”
Her work is an expression of seeking balance through the appreciation of small things, the flick of a dog’s whisker, the sound of the wind through the trees, shadows across the landscape. She feels a deep sense of interconnectivity with nature and animals, believing, “that we are part of a greater whole and nothing is separate.” She has had pets all her life and has a strong emotional bond to her dog, with dogs featuring regularly in her work. She explains that, “I think of my dog as a guardian spirit in my own life. This is why most of my sculptures incorporate these types of spirit entities as they exist externally and internally.”
Cary Weigand was born and raised in Hawaii. She earned both her Master and Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Hawaii and in 2006 she received a grant award from The George Sugarman Foundation for sculpture. Her work has been featured on PBS’s Oregon Art Beat, published in Ceramics Technical, and she was awarded one of Ceramics Monthly’s Emerging Artists for 2011.
John Westmark’s paintings convey a sound sense of composition and an attention to detail that allows conceptual elements to be seamlessly woven through the narrative without diminishing the aesthetic of the work. By these means he is able to create a subtle intellectual dialogue that quietly speaks of sociopolitical issues and gender.
The context, imagery, narrative and media are all carefully considered. His work comments on the portrayal of women in art from the standpoint of a contemporary male artist and feminist. Aesthetically his work has common threads with diverse genres including: Western formal portraiture; Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints; early 20th Century Russian propaganda posters, and monumental Mexican muralism. These paintings are grounded in art histories, drawing on archetypes to both document and question the portrayal of women, gender status, and power relationships.
He presents his female figures as agents of revolt, stoic martyrs, or fantastical beings. In every instance the identity of the figure is obscured by wraps, bonnets and bound faces. It is hard to avoid parallels with the use of clothing such as the burqa to mask sexuality, especially as the unavoidable “male gaze” remains a disquieting discussion in regard to the depiction of women by male artists. The absence of religious or cultural cues suggests it is more likely a devise to create ambiguity; a void in which meaning is sought through dialogue rather than dictate. The anonymous nature of these veiled entities poses the question of where the privilege of choice, control and power lies.
Much of his current work incorporates store-bought paper sewing patterns applied directly to the canvas - his interest being, “the metaphorical potential of unorthodox materials”. This particular material provides a rich stream of associated themes creating an undercurrent to the main narrative. We can choose to draw on feminist discourse regarding the role of fashion in the repression and/or liberation of women; or make reference to sewing and homemaking skills; or we can admire the nature of the material within the construct of the work as a whole.
Westmark explains that, “By embellishing the garment patterns with custom text from contemporary feminist writing and criticism, a conceptual narrative is created alongside the existing material narrative of imprinted assembly instructions. This added textual narrative disrupts the nostalgic or stereotypical notion of “women’s work” and admits an aggressive feminist dialogue into the visual conversation. The viewer is asked to read both the text embedded surface and the image.”
Remembering John Westmark’s 2014 solo exhibition Narratives, Amanda Breen, Curatorial Assistant at Gibbes Museum of Art, comments that, “it took me longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize these subtle messages the artist weaved into each piece. This realization forced me to slow down and examine each work closely. No longer just figures on the canvas, these small lines of text added to my interpretation of the piece and I eagerly sought out new details I may have missed.”
The strength of John Westmark’s work lies in the nuanced way in which he combines conceptual threads with skilled manipulation of material to create visually engaging paintings. The work would fail if the paintings could not stand in their own right as powerful compositions, provoking an emotional and intellectual response.
John Westmark received an MFA from the University of Florida and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. His work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington DC; Weisman Art Foundation and Museum, Malibu, CA; Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, NE; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC; and the Kansas City Art Institute. John’s work was also selected for the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program. John is the recipient of two Individual Florida Artist Grants. In 2011, John was awarded a Pollock-Krasner grant and was selected as a finalist for the Arte Laguna Prize, Venice, Italy.
In 2012, John was awarded The Gibbes Museum Factor Prize for Southern Art (Charleston, SC). The Factor Prize acknowledges an artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media while contributing to a new understanding of art in the American South. In 2014, John was a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant nominee. John’s work has been featured in New American Paintings, American Art Collector, Studio Visit Magazine, Surface Design Journal and Art in America.