The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Spotlight: John M. Anderson Lecture Series Recent Visitor Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes is a master printmaker whose work is held in museums, corporate, and private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is Associate Professor of Art – Printmaking, and Coordinator of Graduate Studies School of Art, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.

Michael was born in the small town of Ithaca, Michigan.  His mysterious and often disturbing narrative images seem to depict psychological dilemmas drawn from the subconscious.  Barnes’s work has been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the country in both commercial galleries and in university settings.  Additionally, his work has been exhibited in over 100 competitive group exhibitions, including exhibitions in Wales, Poland, Taiwan, Estonia, Japan, Romania, Finland, and the Republic of Macedonia.  He is represented by the Davidson Galleries in Seattle, Washington.  Barnes is currently a Professor in the School of Art and head of the Printmaking program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he has taught since 1998.  He received his BFA from Alma College, Michigan in 1991 and his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1996.

When describing the work of participants from the printmaking community around Northern Illinois in a group exhibition at the Pearl Street Gallery in Brooklyn, NY in 2007, that he curated, Michael talked eloquently about the diversity of practices and the variety of conceptual and aesthetic approaches evident in the work. He mentioned themes and methods such as a “satirical narrative of future and past political worlds may apply to the present state of affairs; the manipulation of currency may suggest corruption and distortion of the truth; abstract diagrammatic drawings may reference scientific models or structures, or introspective, personal visions may imply dreamscapes or alternative universes” (Predictions & Premonitions, 2007).

With this description Michael could well have been talking about his own work. Much of the curiously disquieting world he explores finds its imprint in realms not too far from the physical and psychic space that he and his community of Illinois printmakers inhabit. Yet he moves farther afield, and deeper in time–into dark places of foreboding, among an ominous presence of things unknown in form but surely visited in mind. The curious world of Michael Barnes is like no other.