Magic and Madness

Reflecting the mind and times in which it is created, art is an ever-evolving continuum. Modern and contemporary sculptors whittle and carve out the three-dimensional figures redefining and reworking the very concept of the sculpture more passionately than in days gone by. Mixing old and new materials with contemporary and traditional techniques birth abstracts that define physical, psychic or conceptual space, and our relationship to it. Sculpture goes beyond the physical thing itself. 

I first met Michael Barnes at the Anacortes Art Festival in Washington. He was abrasive and dismissive… like a lot of artists. But his work was fascinating, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I circled back to his booth three or four times. This was art I wanted to spend time with. I didn’t want to glance over his pieces; I wanted to take a good long look at each figure and face. They begged to be studied. 

Barnes carves drama. His sculptures of porcelain or stoneware reveal something otherworldly. Using unconventional techniques he manipulates his medium into heads, faces and beings. Imaginary figures wait to be freed and interpreted by the admirer. 

Michael, a geophysicist, construction engineer, and sculptor has a very active imagination. As he dries, fires and glazes each piece the subtle colors and textures are highlighted. His creations are “composites of real, fictional, and dreamed people…pushed, shaped, and fired for life in a vitrified world.”

You can catch a glimpse of Michael’s sense of humor in his work. Faces looking down their ceramic noses at me, curled lips and arching eyebrows seem to hint of inside jokes kept to themselves. Some faces smack of pride, chins thrust skyward. Others look as though they are about to yawn with boredom, tired of holding their stony pose. Each is free of cultural and race constraints. Barnes’s conscious and subconscious sift together his experiences to transform a lifeless lump of clay into a sculpture of personality open for interpretation. 

Michael Barnes is more than a sculptor, he is part magician, part mad scientist. He prods, pinches and pokes his creations until movement and matter merge into something worth pondering. Sometimes, when you expect it the least, you find art worth circling back for. 

To see more of Michael Barnes’s work find him at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, April 7-9, 2019. He will also be at the Rockville Town Square Arts Festival, May 6-7 in Rockville, MD. May 13-14 you can find him at the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival, Bethesda, MD. Or visit his website

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