James Barker

Artist Statement

I operate under an acute condition of self-induced displacement, indicative of the cultural experience of longing for place. Bucolic literature, films, media, and artwork have served an important role in the creation of the mythological American west: depictions of lush meadows, endless plains, and big skies. This romantic notion is engrained in my psyche, and I find myself at a paradox: at once longing for these mythical places and simultaneously aware that this longing is a product of cultural fiction.

I formulate a visual language that is both specific and general, foreign and familiar, autobiographic and cultural. Through the act of appropriating everyday objects, I create a vernacular language of western sentiment and the cliché of prosperity and freedom. Many of the objects are a part of the artificial landscape; landscapes that have been fabricated or cultivated to transport the occupant to a personal utopia.

I am a product of my environment, but the act of making gives me the opportunity to make my environment a product of me: to realize a vision, to manicure a landscape, to plant a garden, and mount my own Arcadian fixtures. The goal is to probe at the liminal state between physical experience and utopian sentimentality.

-- James Barker


James Barker is a sculpture artist and has exhibited his artwork extensively throughout the United States. James holds an MFA from Alfred University, a BFA in ceramics from Ohio University, and undertook post-baccalaureate studies at Kansas State University and the University of Montana. He currently serves as an Exhibitions Coordinator and Preparator at the Stamps Gallery at the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. He previously held adjunct faculty positions teaching ceramics at The Ohio State University and Alfred University, and curated exhibitions at the Sculpture Center in Cleveland. He has also served as an exhibit builder, creating high end exhibition furniture for museums and attractions around the world.

His work primarily consists of installations and sculpture comprised of a wide variety of materials including ceramic, fibers, found objects, digital print, wood, projection, light, and anything else he can get his hands on. Having traveled extensively throughout rural America, his work is informed by notions of longing for place, western mythologies, and home-made utopias.