Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Tara Barnes’ unconventional art

Lesbian artist's works on display at the Buzz


23-year-old lesbian artist Tara Barnes likes doing things differently. She’s a former butterfly farmer and enjoys creating art in a decidedly unconventional way.

“I like to focus on a lot of found objects. How do you take things that are very ordinary and turn them into something that is a little bit extraordinary?” poses Barnes.

Her art is characterized by the stark contrast between the drabness of wood and eruptions of subtle colour. She uses a variety of techniques: blind contour, woodwork and traditional painting.

“I manipulate them [materials] in the sense that a lot of them are antique furnishings that I found or pieces of wood or cutting boards. I gouge into it or burn it or I drill nails into it and sketch around that.”

Barnes’ works are currently on display at The Buzz restaurant.

Her unique creations come across as the product of an unshakeable imagination. One piece, titled Natural Causes One and Two has two old cutting boards linked together; one displaying a foetal pig, while the other showcases a dissected frog. The frog appears to be three-dimensional, resuscitated with nails and colourful string, leaping to life.

Vernissage producer and curator for The Buzz and Oh So Good Marcus Lamoureux took notice of Barnes’ off beat abilities.

“I’m fond of Tara’s ability to reuse wood in her paintings,” said Lamoureux “Her art is a wonderful contribution to The Buzz.”

In one acrylic painting titled Rail Ties, Barnes explores the power of transportation and human connectivity.

My Peacock Heart illustrates a sketched figure with a colourful heart bursting off the easel.

“It’s about wanting attention,” explains Barnes, “in a controlled sort of way. How the peacock won’t show its colours until it’s mating time.”

Experimenting with different mediums for almost a decade, Barnes cites performance artist Miranda July as a main influence.

“She’s a pretty big creative powerhouse. She’s definitely an idol in that sense,” says Barnes. “I draw inspiration from people who do things in a way that I’ve never thought of. Things that can seem out of reach until you look at it yourself. Art is kind of a communion with everyone. Some people are geniuses in one field and you’re really good in another. I think people tend to relate to the work that I do because it deals with objects that they can find in their house.”

And while some of Barnes’ pieces touch on sexuality and gender roles, she’s not trying to be shocking.

“I don’t want to shock people or make really overt comparisons to society,” says Barnes. “Doing art is kind of like telling jokes, in that I try to pull at truth, but in a subtle and personal way. I reflect on the human body, it’s there, but my intention, this time, wasn’t to sexualize it.”

Sex, art and butterflies may be an unlikely trio, but Barnes’ experience with butterflies in the Cayman Islands allowed her inspiration to take flight.

“I took this job very seriously. And it forced me to consider things like: how do you relate to a broad range of people who are tourists, and are looking at something that they have never seen even thought it exists in their back yard,” says Barnes. “I think that’s where the whole found art kind of comes from. How do you take something that’s right there everybody sees it and take it to another level.”