Shawn Barber, Jezebel, oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches.
The history of Modern art is characterized by a series of movements that rewrote the established rulebook of what art should be that had been in place for centuries. Those movements needed to happen. That book needed to be rewritten. Unfortunately, part of this transition involved diminishing the importance of the real craft of painting, painterly skill and the celebration thereof.
Shawn Barber re-embraces that true craft; the craft of Velasquez and of Van Dyke, two masters that he lists as influences. His work goes back to the roots of what makes great art. It champions hard work, dedication and tradition. He even has the words ‘Work’ and ‘Hard’ tattooed on his fingers.
A list maker and goal setter, Barber is extremely motivated and prolific. He lives his life with integrity. He has chosen to do what he loves, and to try to become great at it. He ticks off all of the boxes, and that’s rare.
He has painstakingly studied and practiced his technique. He has spent many years enhancing his ability, practicing and motivating others. It has been said that good art no longer exists because the craft has died. Barber’s work, and that of those that he has taught and influenced, is testament to the fact that good art is alive and well.
Barber blends age-old technique with present day subject matter, making his work contemporary and cutting edge. Personally, I feel that the theme of the show entitled ‘Youth of Today’ is secondary to the painting itself, but it is certainly worth our attention.
Shawn Barber, Attention Defecit, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 inches.
Barber is an impassioned man who is deeply upset with the state of today’s youth. Today’s young people are out of touch with their true selves. Their position is tragic because they are encouraged by the media and their peers to be somehow perfect. The standards by which they are judged are radically out of line with what is actually important in life, and with what the next generation should be learning to value. The result of their effort to fit in, and to be what it is that society seems to be telling them to be, is not beautiful, cool or impressive. It is plastic, dead and ugly. These images are a harbinger of a bleak future.
Shawn Barber, Mummified, oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches.
I feel that Barber believes in finding your true self, and in letting that guide your life, so I imagine that his view of today’s youth is particularly disturbing for him. He uses his art to make a loud statement. There is a shock factor to these pieces. They jolt the viewer to attention. Dolls’ heads become bloody and decayed, ending up as skulls. There is something eerily disturbing about a doll’s head, possibly even more so than a skull. We relate to them. They are created to look like us. It’s as though Barber’s dolls are possessed. Red is a predominant color of the show. It is the color of blood, of danger, of Hell. According to Barber, the youth of today have a real problem. Their behavior is misdirected and unnatural. The doll’s eyes look sad, lost and detached from their souls. They are troubled because what is behind them is empty.
Shawn Barber, Dissolution, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 inches.
The show will be up now through August 6th.