My architecture-related sculptures are influenced by my travels throughout rural America. I am attracted to the strong visual character of this country’s vernacular architecture. Vintage lapboard houses, mobile homes, and agriculture-related structures have become regional icons that ultimately tell the stories of their inhabitants and builders. This implied history interests me deeply.
Typically considered eyesores, these structures are glaring reminders of the social and economic plight of much of our society. Yet on a formal level, they have a hidden beauty, complex in color, texture, and shape. Much like America’s Ashcan School, I am interested in the depiction of unheralded everyday subject matter and the subtle nobility in these castles of the mundane. A feeling of sadness is often prevalent in these works, reminding me of the stories my Mother and my Aunt Mildred have told me of their early life in rural North Carolina, and of the ones they will not tell, no matter how much I prod.
My cast sculptures are influenced by my interest in toy design, and both folk and outsider art. These works feature paint-worn patinas inspired by played-with cast iron piggy banks, die-cast toy automobiles, and tin toys. For many of these works, I use a variety of original forms from which to pull a mold from. These include wood, clay, vegetables, and cactus. Other works included in this portfolio are made by carving directly into mold blanks, creating forms through spontaneity and controlled accidents.
The portrait busts seen here come directly from my interest in toys, and feature heavy stylization of the figure. This style is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and in contrast to the “serious” portrait busts created by Roman sculptors and others throughout art history. Other cast works here feature my interest in fetish and fertility figures, and icons in general. My goal is to capture the magical quality of these powerful objects of meaning.
Born in Williamston, North Carolina, Barber was raised on a farm near the Roanoke River in Martin County. He received his BFA in Sculpture from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina in 1987, and his MFA in Sculpture from the University of Arizona in 1991. He also studied in Cortona, Italy through the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program. In 1991 Barber was awarded a yearlong residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico. After returning to North Carolina in 1992, he received a Southern Arts Federation/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship in Sculpture, and a North Carolina Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship, both in 1993. In 1994, Barber moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, to teach Sculpture and Metalsmithing at Midwestern State University. He left in 2000 to teach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he is currently Professor of Sculpture.
Barber has exhibited at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art in Auburn, Alabama, Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, Redbud Gallery in Houston, Texas, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum in Tokyo, Japan, to name a few. Most recently, he completed a large-scale outdoor public commission titled “Geri”, for the Waco Sculpture Zoo.
Although he and his family have lived in the state of Texas for the last twenty-eight years, they maintain a strong connection with their North Carolina roots, and visit this state every summer.