Partners in life, painting, and parenthood, the Brooklyn-based artists Colleen Barry and Will St. John recently showed a selection of figurative paintings, in a joint exhibition hosted by their long-time friends, Adam Driver and Joanne Tucker. The show is titled, Ride the Tiger.
“Art has become overburdened by the impulse to rationalize, theorize, and explicate,” says St. John. “Painting is primarily experienced through the senses and not the intellect. With our work, we are placing sensuality as a value, if not above, then at least equal to intellectualism.”
Ride the Tiger is the expression, the fruits, of this obsessive, decade-long journey concerning people and paint, one that would lead both artists, each overburdened with years of accrued skill, back to a place of relaxed urgency, to elicit the painstaking illusion of effortlessness.
St. John’s playful but meticulous portraits refreshingly evoke swirling, jealous whispers of chiaroscuro and naughty tendrils of truffled sfumato, Barry’s works are more sculptural and frustratingly, perhaps almost apologetically personal. These are beautiful, tender, frightening dreams, transformed and rendered up with raw, primal instinct, despite being planned throughout several evolving studies in various mediums, all built out with consistent architectural and compositional integrity. Richly infused with undimmed childlike curiosity, “We’ve always been insiders and outsiders,” says Barry. The Reserved recently sat down with the artists to ask them a few questions.
Will St. John, Colleen Barry, Joanne Tucker, Adam Driver Arden Wohl, Colleen Barry, Joanne Tucker Dustin Yellin, Adam DriverWael Deek, Kimberly Hanson
Will: Because Only Fans just doesn’t pay the bills like they used to.
Colleen: Art reminds you of what is constant in an ever-changing world.
What’s your formal background/ training as an artist?
Will: I watched 10,000 hours of Bob Ross videos on Youtube.
Colleen: Between the age of 14 and 21 I apprenticed with an incredible NYC painter who was born in Ghana Africa named Sam Adoquei. He introduced me to the world of oil painting and inspired me in my youth. He had me Plein-air painting in Central Park by day and copying Michelangelo figures by night.
Tell us about your background growing up?
Will: I was raised on a farm in Central PA. My parents were both school teachers. I moved to New York City to go to college and I haven’t left.
Colleen: I was raised on the lower east side of manhattan to a working-class family. My mom was an RN at St. Vincent’s hospital in the west village during the AIDS crisis and 9/11. My dad was an Artisan Contractor serving the interior design community in Manhattan.
Colleen Barry, Katie Whipple Erik Erickson, Karen EricksonLauren Cohen, Gregory Thornbury
Just for Colleen: Do you feel any gender limitations being a woman artist?
Colleen: I have experienced limitations not because of my gender but because I am a mother. I think that most galleries want a hot young female artist to sell their product and use their sex appeal to make them more money. It’s that simple, haha.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Will: Insane discipline.
Colleen: Showing up and working.
How has your practice changed over time?
Will: I use less brown paint.
Colleen: These days I find myself working larger and with more confidence. I use more bright colors and make stuff up out of my head more. I also dance more in the studio.
What art do you most identify with?
Will: Old Masters. Jean- Honorè Fragonard in particular.
Colleen: Early 20th century female artists in particular the German artist Käthe Kollwitz. I love art that is fearless and personal, both abstract and human. William Blake and Hilma af Klint also come to mind as artists I identify with. These artists were trained in traditional settings but used more abstract and symbolic language in their paintings and drawings.
Samir Mansano, Chanel BaldwinPatricia Black Danny Lenoir
What’s your favorite artwork?
Will: Honoré Daumier Drawings
Colleen: Frank Walter tondos
What is an artistic outlook on life?
Wil: Don’t be a martyr.
Colleen: Be a black sheep, not fitting into a perfect mold is actually really bad ass.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Colleen: Someone once told me I paint like a man.
Jesper Lund, Eugene TsaiRon Brawer
What do you dislike about the art world?
Will: It would seem that the art world tends to base its opinions on the credentials of the artists rather than the quality of the actual artwork itself.
Colleen: The art world just follows trends.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Will: Just have fun with it.
Colleen: Don’t judge a work halfway through.
What advice would you give your inner child?
Will: Abandon all hope ye who enter here
Colleen: Stop crying.