Nick Barbee

My focus is on the role of representation in the construction of culture and meaning. Like an amateur historian, I attempt to grasp the larger arc of history by favoring mundane objects and by collecting stories. Historical reenactment is a model for my studio practice as reenactments are both a representation of an event and the event itself. I reference historical eras by representing distinct objects and events such as ballistic diagrams, Valley Forge, birch bark canoes, New World exploration and by representing diverse historical figures such as Pocahontas, Arthur Ashe, George Washington, and Marion Barry. I use self portraiture and seemingly domestic objects along side these historically significant figures and eras as a means to collapse disparate histories. Despite the apparent futility of examining histories whose outcomes cannot be altered, the ever-changing significance of those histories allows for a continual reevaluation of their meaning.

My work takes different forms, like ceramics, watercolor, plaster casts, and portraiture and varies in modes of presentation from artist's books, power points, and gallery exhibitions. In my studio practice, I examine modes of abstraction and systems of display. Work begins with a quotation or an observation. From these starting points I go through a series of conceptual and physical alterations. Associations manifest as markers along a process of abstraction.