Featured Artist Christopher Barnes "Clownin' Around"
by Nancy Coleman
One would never guess that an artist’s anxiety during last November’s elections would result in paintings of clowns. But that’s exactly how our featured gallery artist in May, Christopher Barnes, reacted. He explains that he was seeking to understand the complexity of what was going on then, eventually wanting to create a positive spin for himself and others. To Christopher, clowns evoke feelings of joy that provide a welcome distraction from the 2020 difficulties, and he wants to share that happiness with his featured exhibit “Clowning Around” at CVG in May.
Thanks to his mom’s decorating their home with a myriad of clown images, Christopher grew up with them so it’s likely they bring comfort to Christopher from way back. In fact, Christopher learned through research that clowns do indeed go “way, way back, four or five thousand years and in virtually all cultures.” A couple of the more modern types of clowns, he said, include the sad ragamuffin Tramp Clown (think Charlie Chaplin), and the theatrical Pagliacci clown with a ruffled collar. Our current popular idea of clowns usually brings to mind the performing clown who juggles and gives balloons to children. Unfortunately there are now the scary clowns who have started to play their part in this history, though they evolved only forty or fifty years ago. Part of Christopher’s intention with his clown activities is to help those who have a fear of clowns get over it and understand they are not just strangers behind face paint, but are there to amuse us and make people happy.
Christopher’s art goes beyond painting, with his passion being making short indie films, one of which was to have been screened in the 2020 Puget Sound Film Festival. While his degree from the University of Texas in San Antonio was in Art, it was a placeholder for film study as UTSA didn’t have a film program. He plans to extend his current clown study with an original film about them.
Christopher also enjoys creating installation art events, such as his currently putting out a call to all local clowns to show up in Bremerton during First Friday in May. He himself will arrive at the gallery in a clown costume – maybe even riding the unicycle he is just learning to navigate, and juggling!