Joshua Barber

PONSHOP Featured Artist Interview: Joshua Barber

PONSHOP is excited to be featuring the work of Joshua Barber in the gallery this month. Scarlett and I have known Joshua since 1997 and it's amazing to see his growth as an artist over the years. PONSHOP Intern Sarah Dawes conducted an interview with Barber and discussed the work he has featured at the PONSHOP. We also gained some insight on his overall artistic style and influences.

Joshua Barber is a painter of contemporary icons and landscapes. Having received his BFA cum laude from Appalachian State University, Barber has exhibited his work in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Bristol. Barber uses hand-weathered paper and wood as a medium for much of his work, as well as acrylic with oil and pencil detailing. Many of his stylized figures are reflective of the religious artwork Barber explored on his trip to Jerusalem, Jordan and Egypt in 2000. Capturing a nocturnal sense of memories and figures, Barber’s work is often characterized as darkly humorous and dreamlike. He has been selected for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ auction for three consecutive years.

Joshua Barber is the son of notable maritime artist John Barber, who is widely-known for his paintings of the Chesapeake Bay. In his youth, Joshua Barber was known to accompany his father in his studio or on excursions around the Chesapeake to find painting locations. Today, both artists are featured in the Barber Gallery at Gallery 5800 in Richmond.

"Hook, Line, and Naughty Sinker" Mixed Media on Wood, 15"x18"

Q: When and how did you start developing an interest in art?
A: It really started at a very early age. One of my favorite memories was in 1st or 2nd grade, when my elementary school put together a cookbook with recipes from the teachers and artwork from selected students. I was chosen to represent my class because of my interest in art. I remember drawing a very happy smiley faced shrimp.
I got pulled out of class and sent into a room to do my special drawings solo. There was a sense of power that I felt from that experience. It wasn't necessarily a feeling of being gifted or popular, but more realizing, "Suckers! You have to do cursive handwriting when I get to draw." I found my shortcut and used and abused that mindset till I graduated from art school.

Q: What kinds of places have you lived in or visited that have then had a strong effect on your style and perspective?
A: The places I've visited have trumped the places I've lived. There is a certain vulnerability in being an outsider visiting someone else's home that I have found very inspirational. My main inspiration for my modern icons came from visiting places like Israel, Jordan and Egypt and seeing how much history is a part of everyday life. From the Middle East, I took away the sacred quality of beauty that illuminates the image and the story. On the flip side, I lived in the U.K. for a short period of time and picked up the idea of having an aggressive sense of humor and the pride to produce truly original work. Inspiration is always around. Virginia is my home.

Q: You have your hands in a lot of different creative media. When we first met in 1997, you were playing a lot of music, and studying graphic design. How does this multifaceted approach influence/inform your creative process?
A: I like making stuff, whether it's a collection of paintings or chocolate chip pancakes. I've never understood the concept of "being a jack of all trades, but master of none." To me that's like saying that I understand the world, but I've never left the country. From a conceptual side, understanding the crescendo of a song or the climax of a documentary only enhances the creation of a painting. A painting is a multi-faceted piece of work that demands a beginning and end to its story.
From a business perspective, I would encourage young artists who are stepping into the game to get savvy with their promotional skills. No matter how good you are, where you're from, who you know, etc., you have to represent your work well. That is key.

"Can You Do The Birthday Cake?", Mixed Media on Wood, 9"x11"

Q: You and your father show work together at Gallery 5800 in Richmond. Can you tell us a little bit about the gallery and your association?
A: My father and I had an exhibition together in October 2009 titled, "Barber vs. Barber." My father John Barber, in my opinion and others', is one of the best contemporary realism painters in America today. His use of color, light and technique is extraordinary. My iconic work was starkly different and gaining momentum in galleries throughout the U.K. We decided that exhibiting together would be a great collaboration as father and son and it resulted in a very powerful show. The best comment that was made about the "Barber vs. Barber" show was, "I have my money on Barber." That was one of the proudest nights of my life. We are both represented by Gallery 5800.

Q: Can you briefly touch on some of the common themes in your artwork?
A: I bookend my work with happiness and depression and let everything else fall in between. Life is complicated for every single human being on the planet, and I find that simple fact beautiful and unifying.
Everyone wakes up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts and no one holds a golden ticket. I like to chronicle everything I experience and let my work amplify my fears, dreams and hopes.

Q: Why do you choose to work with the media used in your work? How do you think this enhances your work in ways that other methods could not?
A: Experimentation. I have shot paintings with shotguns, splattered them with bleach from a toothbrush, buried pieces in the backyard and dipped them in month-old coffee. I would say in the last ten years, six or seven out of fifty experiments actually worked. It was fun though.
Now, I do have a "secret formula" to how I create my pieces that leaves the audience guessing. I find great pride in that. I also heavily respect painters who use a traditional method of oil, acrylic, watercolors etc. It simply didn't work for me, so I had to create a witches' brew for me to be satisfied.

"Look, I See What You Mean From A Totally Different Point of View", Mixed Media on Wood, 9"x11"

Q: Your artwork has unique and often times humorous titles. The title, “Hook, Line and Naughty Sinker” evokes some giggles from our patrons when they read it. Can you touch upon the relationship between the images and titles and how they can influence one another?
A: It kills me when I see a beautiful painting by an artist titled ironically, "untitled." Paintings are layered as much as thoughts behind them. My work is based on connecting with people. Being obscure or above the audience is boring to me. I want people to understand the painting, with a little bit of a love nudge, and then everything is open to interpretation.

Q: Your current show “all the ways i’m leaving you” runs until October 31 at Gallery 5800. Give us an overview of the show and what you’d like the viewer to take with them.
A: "all the ways i'm leaving you" was an exploration into kinetic landscapes which represent the moments and the decisions made before a true story begins. The collection was actually a challenge for me to create. I worked this year on several specific paintings for commissions and auctions, which is how I prefer to paint, but it's so rewarding to be able to step back and see a unified collection.
I wanted every viewer to take a second, erase the world and relate to these moments on their own terms. I'm proud that the red-wagon piece, "i'll show you yours and you show me mine," went to a collector who said it "captured his childhood." It doesn't get any better than that.

You can view more of Joshua Barber's work on