With "The Illusion of Mattering," currently showing in the East Gallery at the Oklahoma state Capitol, Marc Barker discovered "what's missing" to create paintings and prints that are literally and figuratively layered.
"Every one of the marks is very intentional," Barker said. "I'm seeing what's missing and then what to add next. I like to add the concept of layered meanings."
His technique includes using a textured gray veil that is at once in the background and at the foreground of his work. Like the proverbial "rose-tinted glasses," the shroud of his art is what the viewer sees through.
"We all look through some tint of glasses," he said. "Everything we see, there's some veil."
Although Barker now works with web and CD-ROM development as owner and president of Aeternitas Inc., he has been involved with the arts for more than 20 years. He was selected as the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's Allied Artist, served as a juror for the 2004 Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts and has worked for both Paseo Intaglio Printers and the University of Central Oklahoma's graphic design department and art museum. But before he began his long career in the arts, he received his degree in zoology at the University of Oklahoma and did postgraduate work in limnology, the study of inland waters.
"I started in the sciences. I moved from there into the arts, so in a way, it's a balanced brain concept," he said. "Computers require understanding of both sides: the design and the programming."
Although he doesn't "draw or paint the freshwater ecosystems" he studied in zoology, a residual focus on nature resides in Barker's art. The most apparent is the caves, which he became interested in while studying limnology.
"When I first discovered caving back in 1971, I instantly fell in love with it," he said. "I fell in love with seeing things I had never seen before and most people had never seen before. They intrigued me from every level, artistic and scientific."
NEW ARTISTIC MEDIUM
Barker works with photography, graphic arts, painting and printmaking, but with every new artistic medium he approaches, he always starts with caves. As all the light in a cave is manufactured by a headlamp, the challenge with each medium is illuminating the underground labyrinths. The absence of color in "The Illusion of Mattering" that comes from Barker's printmaking techniques gives off a dissipated light similar to what might come from a flashlight underground.
Other repeating images in Barker's work are clouds and shadowed figures that come from his being intrigued with "the psychological concept of the shadow."
"The title of the show, 'The Illusion of Mattering,' deals with shadow thinking," Barker said. "As we get a little older, we have to constantly keep asking ourselves what matters at the moment. It's an illusion we have of what mattered so much, and when it's over, we realize that that didn't matter at all."
The centerpiece of the exhibit is "Homo Cum Deo (Man Together with God)," which has a dark figure with a wispy, duplicate figure above it. Barker said "it's sort of a godlike figure, that person's higher self, but it's not necessarily an exact representation of God." This work, as well as others, uses the shadow concept to depict the "demons we have to face" through different stages of life "in order to pass into the new level."