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Zak Barnes Returning to Cottonwood Falls

On June 6, Symphony in the Flint Hills Gallery will open a new show of plein air landscapes of the Flint Hills grasslands by Zak Barnes. Barnes, who has many ties to Chase County, will be present during the opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m.

The “where” in Zak Barnes’ paintings is easy to spot. Barnes, a native Kansan, leaves no doubt that he draws on his home state for inspiration. The “when” can be far more ambiguous; by design, Barnes produces both timeless, impressionistic landscapes (painted in the open air) and studio work that blends influences and images from different periods. The latter works encroach on the borders of what’s been termed Surregionalism, while still remaining true to their prairie roots. This time, in the Symphony Gallery, his prairie landscapes—not to forget his stunning “airscapes”—will be dominant.

Barnes takes different approaches to creating the two lines. His landscapes are intended to capture a moment, with light and color at the forefront, and the process becomes both meditative and creative for him. But when he’s working in the studio, “the landscape becomes secondary, drawn from memory, a setting and backdrop for human interaction,” said Barnes. “Narratives in a loose sense, I reference folk art, surrealism and contemporary compositional practices to create ambiguity in both period and environment. Natural and manmade elements are placed in concert, creating a space of pleasant sharing.”

And while Barnes might refer to himself as an “artist’s artist,” there’s plenty here that will resonate with viewers from all walks of life. Even if it’s hard to pin down the “when” in Barnes’ work, there’s no mistaking why it works. It works because Barnes is intimately acquainted with his inspirational sources, so much so that whether he manipulates them or presents them as they were in a given moment, both the actual and the artificial ring true.

Barnes feels a deep connection to the prairie landscape and to the people of this land. These are the base and anchor of his work, and set the emotional tone for any narrative that plays itself out in the paintings.

“I find fulfillment in the rhythm of my days out in the open, loading and unloading the truck with equipment paints and dog, setting up, and working with the elements. There is physical as well as mental work in the process, so that it becomes a meditation and a practice. I create all of my landscape work on site, with no preparatory drawing or reworking in the studio.” His work presents, in his words, “The rhythm of my days.”

The Symphony in the Flint Hills Gallery is located at 331 Broadway, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Barnes show will be open until August 4, 2015. For more information call 620-273-8955. The gallery supports Symphony in the Flint Hills’ mission to enhance appreciation of the tallgrass prairie.

Other opening receptions in nearby Matfield Green on June 6 from 2 to 5 p.m.:

·    The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs: Eric and Erin Dobson “Proximal Topologies” (photography and installations) and Bengt Ericson “The Tiniest Moves” (tapestries)

·    The Bank art space: Corey Antis “Works and Days” (drawings and installations)