Nick Barbee
My focus is on the role of representation in the construction of culture and meaning. Historical reenactment is a model for my studio practice as reenactments are 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 in an attempt to collapse disparate histories. Like an amateur historian, my work ignores the larger arc of history in favor of collecting anecdotal stories and mundane objects. Despite the apparent futility of seemingly histories whose outcomes cannot be altered, the ever-changing significance of those histories allows for a continual reevaluation of their meaning.

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

As an artist, I developed a practice that freely adopts whatever technique is convenient and applicable. As an educator, this approach to my own practice has allowed me to teach painting, drawing, and sculpture studio courses. While some of the skills associated with each take priority, I approach each class with the same goals. Students are encouraged to work together through ideas and to solve problems. Teaching these classes has had an effect on my own studio practice by reintroducing the pleasure of observational drawing, and the benefits of building scale models, and of taking my time. It has encouraged me to accept the finality of display, and the possibilities that come from limitation.