John Barnes Art

Recent Work Statement


My current body of work is inspired by the historic cycle of race-positioning in relation to power and servitude in the contemporary South.

The “cycle” as I refer to it, of race-positioning is a constant state of sustained power in one community and the constant state of open vulnerability in the other community along with the optics of these categories. The optics are what I presume is actually happening in cycles, the recent package of optics are depictions of black males being killed in horrific and public ways by white civilians and law enforcement officers. These optics are similar to the optics of suspected black male criminals or falsely accused rapists being lynched by huge mobs of self-entitled white males in the American South of the 1950s. Although the killing of black males by these same forces never abated during the decades between the 1950s to contemporary times, the frequency of the visuals of the activity seemed to. Until now.

In my response to the current times I sought to recreate a historic visual landscape that embodied the practice of cyclical race- positioning. I chose to use heavily-grained plywood to embed complex drawings of scenes from the slavery history up to now and the cycles of heavily-promoted violent images against black males in ink within the wood-grain. This also serves a dual purpose of relating the activities of the old south as engrained behaviorisms of the new south, but under a newer set of optics.

I truly believe that the direction my country (USA) is moving in is a downward spiral that can’t be reversed, without some sort of supernatural intervention. Affixed within the plane of the ink and wood-grain landscapes are carved limbs descending from the “clouds” that comprise the space above the ink and wood-grain landscapes. The limbs represent the “reaching in” of a devine god-like entity intervening on the petty activities happening beneath it. This entity will have an intention to “reset” a new balance.