Artist Statement

Stephanie Barnes

And then I discovered paint, not just any paint, but fluid acrylics, and it was love at first pour. Painting not only brought me the things that drawing and photography did, but also joy. Excitement. Energy.  

Nothing exists as appears: there are layers above and below; there is always something more than meets the eye. There is context and understanding.

The desire to create was latent in me for a long time, invisible but storming under the surface. This energy suddenly sprung out of me when I discovered painting in 2011. Paint spoke to me in a way that nothing else had before. Paint reveals on the surface what is happening underneath.

I paint so that the eye can see what the inner eye knows. I paint because there is a deep desire for me to give expression to the things I don’t have words for.

The evolution of my creativity from the application of other mediums, such as drawing and photography, for representation, was a journey of self-discovery. That my personal passage paralleled the history of art, from direct representation to the 20th century avant-garde breakthrough of abstract expressionism, is something very real for me. I grew up thinking that being an artist meant having the skills, the craft, to represent reality and when I began to explore photography as a medium, I began to understand that painting didn’t need to do the same thing, represent the surface, when there is actually so much more going on, beyond the vision of the eye.

My painting is what keeps me sane in a turbulent world as my personal perception shifts to make room for my expression. My painting has become as necessary as food to me; it is a constant reminder to stay in the present and go with the flow. The movement of the brush, the flow of paint, is informed by feelings and experiences, thoughts and spirit.

Painting has become my teacher of life. Even the expression of negative emotions, like rejection, is transformed into joy when translated into paint. When I discovered this, I became free. The unbridled joy I experienced in suddenly surrendering to the flow of paint across the canvas became reflected in my life as I became aware of the mask I had to wear to succeed in a man’s world. Those masks began to fall on the surface of the blank canvas, evolving into a 2013 series: The Masks We Hide Behind, revealing the masks we wear as an oppressive cage. This series was followed by Escape, a reaction to rejecting the external world and its stifling social conformity.

Painting has taught me to stop hiding who I am and to step beyond the fear of rejection, eventually learning to stand for the truth, regardless of what happens. The moments when I talk to people about my art, about why I paint, about the messages in the paintings allow me to be heard in a new way, to express myself beyond words.