Geology as metaphor and memory
The art of Mindy Barker at Fulcrum Gallery
By Dave R. DavisonFor Tacoma Weekly
Published on: September 04, 2008
Tacoma artist Mindy Barker recounts that as a teenager living with her family aboard a sailboat on Bellingham Bay, all she wanted for her birthday was a geode. Her birthday wish was fulfilled and when she got her crystal-filled stone orb she would sit and stare at it, fascinated by its colors and its form.
Barker’s fascination with geological forms underlies both the metaphoric and the visual essence of a show of her work currently on display at the Fulcrum Gallery, one of the artistic gemstones of Tacoma’s artistic landscape.
Entitled “Slice,” the show consists of a series of rich paintings as well as an installation utilizing glass as a medium.
Barker’s paintings begin with photographic images that are fixed onto the surface. She then uses paint to extend the bounds of the photograph. In these “photo extensions,” the original photographs are more often than not so well embedded in the painting that it is often difficult to see where the photo ends and the painting begins. Indeed, in a few of the works it takes a trained eye to locate the seed-photo at all.
Earlier examples of Barker’s “photo extensions” had a surreal bent. Those in the current exhibit, however, have a distinctly geological feel. The paintings consist of rocky shapes layered upon one another like the stratified layers of stone and sediment in a cut-away slice of the earth.
Barker’s boulders, stones and pebbly shapes are done in the lush and lavish colors of a mature color palette.
“Red Java,” for example, is a horizontal painting done in exquisite reds– lava and red licorice. The piece is built around photographic images of the graffiti on the booth furniture of the Java Jive Café.
“Rest,” on the other hand, is done in intense greens and blues that are fudged with murky smudges.
Barker also does painting on recycled CDs, making art that is affordable and interchangeable. She calls these paintings “Remixes” and there is a display of them in the current show.
Specifically for the show at Fulcrum, Barker created an installation entitled “Slice.” Gallery owner and glass artist Oliver Doriss encouraged Barker to utilize glass and she rose to the challenge. Using black pigment to outline her organic, geological strata onto the glass, Barker then filled some of the void spaces with translucent, photographic images while leaving others blank. The composition was then sealed with another glass plate held in place with steel hardware. The photo images are random: odd vegetables and anthropomorphic tree trunks, toys floating in a tub, polka-dotted cereal bowls, body parts, and stacks of stones are but a few of the images encountered.
Barker compares these compositions to slices of her own mind, a “landfill” where memories reside in random juxtaposition with each other. The void spaces are places where memories have been lost. Barker also painted the front windows of the gallery in the same technique, thus creating an interactive experience of space that starts at the curb outside the gallery. A viewer peering into the window is unwittingly made a participant in the piece as are gallery visitors who are visible to one another through the heavy panes of glass that are suspended from the ceiling by means of steel cables. If the embedded images are memories, the occupants of the gallery would be mindfulness of the present moment.
Baker’s art seems to perfectly balance the random moment with a consummate skill in the handling of her materials. Her work dazzles the space of the Fulcrum Gallery like the rich-hued crystals inside an especially fortunate geode.