The Thread of Nature
Septmeber 5 - October 12, 2007
An Introduction to the Sculpture of John Barnett by Gordon Senior.
“Barnacles are one of the wonders of nature and far more magnificent than anything that man has made”.
These recent words of artist, sculptor and teacher John Barnett informed the thread that I followed in selecting this exhibition from works made over twenty-five years. John is an obsessive producer of sculpture and of journals, which contain his writings and drawings relating to his many trips into the landscape. He also produces many monotypes, drawings and relief-prints but for this exhibition the thread I traced identified with his concerns about nature and informing his activities as a sculptor.
It also provides the title for this exhibition in the University Gallery at California State University, Stanislaus “The Thread of Nature.”
John’s grounding in nature and the outdoors come from his formative years spent exploring the tidal mud flats close to his family home on Barbridge Island in Puget’s Sound in Washington State. Endless summers were spent sleeping outdoors cradled by spent razorbill shells, waking to the screech of sea eagles soaring overhead in the dawn skies and the sounds of waves crashing onto a beach. His introduction to nature came from accompanying his father and brothers backpacking, walking and fishing the magical ever-changing area between the land and the sea of his surrounding landscape.
Within the exhibition there are two pieces of work from 1983: “Yellow Light” and “Hawaii Series XIII”. These are key pieces of work, which make reference to germination within nature and the evolving of sculptural forms from seedpods, seed heads, grasses and the motion of the ocean. These works were cast in aluminum and bronze with constructed steel bases. The bases at this time were an integral part of the work, which would be painted, and a patina developed over the entire surface, which makes the base part of the whole. His work at this time was influenced by the vegetation to be found on the island of Oahu in Honolulu where John lived for six years working as a part time lecturer in art at the University of Hawaii. These sculptures were the inspiration for the work he exhibited at the Contemporary Art Center in Honolulu in 1983.