In his best work, painter Barry Motes creates enigmatic tableau of surrealist scenes that seek to explain some aspect of human existence. Often there are suggestions of supernatural elements in the inscrutable narratives, and, in the titles, the artist solves whatever mystery the viewer may be experiencing: Motes is unabashedly a person of faith.
When one views Water & Spirit with no understanding of the source in biblical text (Acts 8:38) what conclusions would be drawn? How important is the race of the human figure in the bathtub? That his head has been opened and filled with water seems an ominous and disturbing image, as will most deconstruction of the body in art; but what are we to make of the bird in the small opening that could hardly be called a window. Yet the surreal anxiety is leavened by Motes’ deliberate choices in color and the serene expression of the man.
The use of parable in religious storytelling follows a long tradition, but Motes marries the morality to unorthodox juxtapositions of object and setting. He is also unafraid to inject nuance into the message, so that the ghostly image of the iconic Venus di Milo statue seen through the door of a strip club provocatively questions the viewer’s easiest assumptions. Although Motes explicitly uses his art to express Christian themes, he does not relinquish the artist’s less sacred but no less important mission to encourage, or even demand that the viewer be an active participant in the process by actively thinking. Such an exchange between artist and audience is the final link in the chain of insight and understanding that is the imperative value of art to any society.
Motes was born in San Diego, California and grew up in Xenia, Ohio. He is a Professor of Art at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky and resides in Prospect, Kentucky with his wife, Carla. Their two sons, Zach and Griff, are graduates of the University of Kentucky and both live in Lexington, KY.
If you wish to see Motes’ work first hand, his solo exhibit Sacred Stories, Wayside Expressions Gallery, Louisville, KY, continues through November 27, 2016. He will also have work in two upcoming solo shows at the Harvill Gallery, Customs House Museum in Clarksville, TN. December 1, 2016 -January1, 2017, and at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY January 18-February 24, 2017. His work will also be included in 58th Mid-States Art Exhibition, Evansville Museum in Evansville, IN, December 10, 2016 -March 5 2017
Hometown: San Diego, California
Educational: MFA in Painting/Drawing, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TNB.A. & MA degrees in Art, Morehead State University
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.