Beautiful/Decay Interview With Artist Grant Barnhart
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The Midwest, motorcycles, cowboy boots, blue jeans, football—imagery associated with classic Americana—kicks, charges, rodeos and bedazzles its way through Grant Barnhart’s works. Bipolar homages/parodies on the goold old stuff that makes up our national iconography and ideology, Barnhart’s works are a feast of star spangled satire and sincere adoration.
Can you talk about your creative process of creating these works?
I collect images and source material that are compiled and arranged to interact with one another. I then draw composite sketches of the painting, adding and subtracting images until it all begins to click. The scribbles and sketches are formulated on paper but a more refined composition surfaces in my head. Usually while I am working on one particular painting the inspiration for two or three future works begin to take shape, becoming part of a larger conversation. I write ideas and blurbs on my studio walls, books, any loose paper I have on hand. I definitely maintain a certain unedited stream of consciousness throughout the process.
The Midwest, motorcycles, cowboy boots, blue jeans, the rodeo—imagery associated with classic Americana—seem to abound throughout your works. What’s your gravitation towards this particular visual vernacular? What do these ideas mean to you as an individual, but also within the context of your work?
Growing up in Kansas I tried to fight this imagery. I dismissed and rejected the archetypal lifestyle at all costs. As an adult I’ve come to embrace this iconic cultural persona. Clearly I suffer from “you can take the boy out of Kansas, but not the Kansas out of the boy” syndrome. I utilize this cultural mythology and associations to highlight of our country’s adolescence. I want to create works that linger between irony and truth, alternating between exaggeration and realism. When the works succeed they create a facet of dimensionality. Humor, violence, sex, honesty, weakness, celebration and strength confront the viewer allowing the audience to interpret their own relationship to the American experience.