Matthew Richard Barnes is not your normal local artist. He’s yet to touch a paintbrush, but has managed to walk the lines between entrepreneur, photographer, sculpture, civic activist and creative thinker. You may be familiar with his work through Tweet And Go Seek, his technology/adventure club startup that rewards real life discovery promoted through social media. But you may not realize that he’s also managed to accumulate nearly a decade’s worth of various artwork pieces spanning multiple mediums, all of which will be on display this Saturday at 400 West Rich Street from 6pm to 10pm.
We spoke recently with Matt to find out more about his artwork and about his upcoming retrospective exhibition.
Q: First, can you tell us a bit about your background as it relates to your artwork?
A: I spent a good portion of my youth traveling and living across the US, mostly the Midwest. I’ve had 27 residences in 7 states in 33 years. Much of my time was spent with sketchpads and cameras and wandering around my new environments soaking in the sights, sounds, people, and culture while collecting little trinkets to fill my pockets.
To make friends, I had to learn how to socially adapt which required a keen sense of observation. I would watch people interact with one another and with the objects they used to identify themselves with as well as with their environments. I’ve always been a people watcher. To really get a sense of a person you have to imagine their past. Possessions are key indicators and how they utilize those possessions is another. To see a collection of possessions may be all you need to know a person.
It became an interest of mine, when I discovered Thrift Stores, to imagine the past the objects I encountered on the shelves had lived with people I’d never met. What was their home like? Were there a lot of people around? How long has the object been around? What room was it in? Trying to then imagine the people, the previous owners, as representatives of a culture in which I participate. Some of my work is an attempt to reveal a universal commonality within our collective culture that binds that culture’s identity to itself, other parts are simply romantic observations of my environment and people.
Q: I noticed that you’re originally from Portland, a city that Columbus (and other cities) strive to emulate quite often. What drew you to Columbus, and do you have any desire to return to Portland?
A: Ahhh, Portland! I only lived their briefly as a child, but have visited it many times to know it’s where I will retire. At what age has yet to be determined.
Portland has it’s draw for me, and I could have easily made it back after graduating from OSU, but I felt a greater sense of purpose here in Columbus. Going back to Portland would put me in a saturated market of like-minded individuals that already seemed to have everything on lock by way of civic culture or their collective ideology. If I stayed here in Columbus the chances of having an impact on the future of the city were greater.
I also have developed some great relationships here in Columbus and value that over any other civic amenity. I think Columbus is truly ready for it’s Renaissance and I’d like to be a hand in it’s shaping. No matter how big or how small. If I felt my ideas or skills would be better served elsewhere that’s where I’d be. But Columbus is where I’ll be calling home for quite awhile.
Q: What types of medium do you work in most often, and do you have a favorite? And what draws you to work in a variety of mediums?
A: I’m not sure I have a favorite medium. I am drawn to all forms of expression. I have yet to explore painting. I am waiting until I’m 40 to do that. Don’t know why. I just want to explore as much of everything else before painting. Since college, I’ve typically given myself 2-3 projects quarterly. Sometimes the projects overlap and become larger bodies of work. The only thing I know that I’ll always do will be photography. My interest is in uncovering a sense of collective identity through individuality and ambiguity. Something that everyone can see or feel and latch onto.
I work in so many different mediums because I love to visually compose lines, shapes, colors, and textures. No medium is sacred. Einstein said that “the key to genius is combinatory play”. I consider those instructions.
A: After graduating from college and having spent a majority of my adolescent life in daily transitory states between classes, projects, and jobs, I just kinda went with the flow. Instead of getting a single subject 9-5 job behind a desk I worked odd jobs and gave myself projects that I knew were long term investments. There was no way I was going to easily transition from 4-7 classes to juggle down to one. I find that I am most successful with many things on my plate to accomplish. So treating my interests and responsibilities as classes is an easier way for me to do more. I’ve always been a busybody.
The art work I create is how I stay fresh for the other things I do in my life. It’s when I’m working on project B that I get my best thinking about Project A done.
Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming retrospective show at 400 West Rich this weekend?
A: People should come to the exhibition because it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in nine years worth of someone else’s creativity and to show their support for true independent art. All of this work has been created in Columbus, Ohio by someone living in Columbus. Most all of the material and subject matter is Columbus based or relative. In fact, you may even say that this is a portrait of Columbus from the perspective of one of its good Samaritans. There will be lots to ponder… from photographs to drawings, poetry to performance, tweetandgoseek collages, and found object assemblages. I want viewers of this show to walk away with more questions on their mind than they came with.
For info about the “misterbarnes 24-33″ exhibition, CLICK HERE.
More information can be found online at www.misterbarnes.com.