Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Robert Barcus 1940-2005

This blog was supposed to be about art, and yet life keeps intruding. I flew back to Chicago on October 24 to face the shocking and painful news that my father unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. Here is a picture of my parents realxing at a late-night art performance, in happier times.

My sister Missy and I made the flower arrangements for the service ourselves. These are surrounding his urn. Below is an excerpt from the eulogy I wrote for his service, which sums up how I feel:

"Several days ago, I received the shocking phone call that no one ever wants to get, telling me to get on a plane immediately and come home, because someone I loved deeply was gone.

Much of the pain of my father's passing comes from how early and suddenly he was taken from us. He did not have the chance to grow old with my mother, travel to Europe like we planned, or even meet his future grandchildren. He had been looking forward to retirement for as long as I can remember, and he had a lot of exploring planned. Because he will not be able to fulfill those plans, my family and I have decided that as I continue on my travels, I will take his ashes with me, and I will scatter them in all of the places that he would have liked to go and experience for himself. And who knows what new realms of space and time he is experiencing now! I would like to think that he is off on a new adventure, greeting whatever mysteries are waiting for us with his characteristic curiosity and open mind.

I know my dad is physically gone, and his absence leaves a hole in my life, and in the lives of all who knew him. But underneath the pain is the very real feeling that he is still living inside of me. My sisters told me they feel the same way. Being the science-fiction lover that he was, I told my mom, he's like Obi Wan Kenobi now. As in, "If you strike him down, he will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." He is Obi Bob Kenobi.

My father was simply an amazing man, always up for anything, so patient, so supportive, so proud of me and my sisters. I live a pretty alternative artistic lifestyle that some parents might worry about or not approve of. But I have never felt anything but acceptance, support and genuine pride from my father. He was so intelligent, so generous, such a friend to my friends, so accepting of everyone, curious and inquisitive and willing to engage anyone he met, on any subject. He instilled in my family the exquisite gift of non-judgment, as he taught us young, and continued to show us by his example, that all people are created equal and all deserve kindness and respect. He loved peace. I think it simply seemed to him the most logical way for people to live together.

Even in the midst of tragedy, it is possible to count blessings. I feel so lucky that I was born into this family, so blessed to have Bob Barcus as my father, and I am just overwhelmed by all the love I have felt from my family and all of my friends. I want to sincerely thank everyone for the non-stop parade of prayers and food and assistance that has been so generously given to me and my family in this time of need. I am also moved by the steady and true bond between me and my sisters and mother, that has allowed us to make this last week as good as it could possibly be. I think we have laughed as much as we have cried, and trust me, we have cried A LOT. So many people have asked me, "What can I do for you?". I have an idea what we can all do for each other. Appreciate the life we have. Let the people you love know how you feel, express it freely and often, and try to be at peace will all who surround you. Because in the end, only love matters. My father taught me that."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Vedauwoo, Wyoming

On my drive to Idaho, I stopped at a state park in Wyoming called Vedauwoo, which means "earthborn spirits" in Arapaho. It is an incredible place of towering rock formations and bluffs, where Native Americans came to have vision quests. I pulled in late at night and could only see the rocks within my headlights, and I actually got a little spooked by how powerful this place felt in the dark! When I got up at sunrise and stepped out of my van, I was awed looking around me at the circle of crazy rocks I found myself in. I explored all day and had some great meditations on the rocks. I realized that I have been holding on to a lot of fear about funding this trip, and it was a great place to let it all go, and trust that everything will work out as long as I trust myself think positive. It was also a great place to count my blessings, and realize how much I do have to be grateful for.

After that I drove all day through Wyoming, which is just incredibly vast and empty, with long expanses of rocky terrain and scrubby desert brush, ringed with mountains in the distance. I could see the weather for miles away, and watched lightning and rain storms in the distance while I drove in the sunshine. After watching one storm for over an hour I finally drove into it and it was like driving into a car wash. Water was spraying in the vents on my dashboard!

Blessed Belly

I arrived in Sun Valley, Idaho to visit my oldest childhood friend, Jody, and her husband Craig. I arrived just in time to hear the Dalai Lama speak as he visited the region. We were fortunate enough to actually get to meet him for a moment and have him bless Jody's pregnant belly! Here she is with her blessed belly, which I body-painted for her, by the Big Wood River.

Hot Springs in Idaho!

Visiting the hot springs on the Big Wood River. The air was COLD but the sulphur springs were HOT! You could see the boiling water bubbling underwater, and it was crucial not to get too close to the bubbles or they would burn. ...Here is Craig doing his best Dalai Lama impression.

Life is good in Idaho!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

WISCONSIN: "White Pine Dress"

The next dress project took place in Seely, Wisconsin at Castle Gardens, a small home-farm owned by Dan and Margaret Krause. While working on this project I stayed at my friend Amy Maxon's family cabin in nearby Stone Lake. We used tree limbs recently blown off the many white pines at Castle Gardens. "Phorpa" the dog thought my pile of materials was a bed made just for her.

Josey was visiting Castle Garens and kept me company while I built the dress form. I made her a crown with extra chicken wire and she filled it with flowers. Here she is wearing her masterpiece.

Karen and I worked late into the night to finish the 12-foot-tall dress form for "White Pine Dress".

With a little help from "Gray Nose" the cat.

Dan graced us with music from his home-made Native American flute.

Attaching the branches to the dress form took five people about four hours to complete. Here I am with Karen and Calvin.

The completed "White Pine Dress"

I was just another tree for the cat to climb.

Karen looked great in "Pine Dress"!

And Calvin gave it a try-on as well...

The crew! Many, many thanks to my friends, helpers and hosts. From left: Dan Krause, Margaret Krause, Calvin Ramseyer, Amy Maxon and Karen O'Mara.

Monday, August 01, 2005

IOWA: "Prairie Dress"

The Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center in Toddville, IA graciously agreed to host the Iowa dress project, "Prairie Dress". They are working hard to convert their acquired land back to the natural prairie that once covered Iowa.

We needed to secure a permit to allow us to cut the prairie grasses. Here are Craig and Felicia collecting material.

Here Cynthia and Paloma are weaving grass into the wire armature for the dress. I found volunteers to help with the project through a local art gallery and also by searching online.

The completed "Prairie Dress"

I thought it was fitting with the nature of this Great Plains state to keep Iowa's dress low to the ground.

This project would not have been possible without my awesome volunteers, who spent a day with me under the hot sun, attacked by ticks and mosquitos, to make "Prairie Dress" happen. From left: Leif Zalewski, Felicia Taylor (hair and make-up), Craig Volesky, Stewart McCoy (holding the wire dress form), Cynthia Wittstruck, and Paloma Jamal Scheck.

Iowa is in America's heartland, the great prairie lands that became the farming breadbasket for the United States. I found out during my work on "Prairie Dress" that the natural environment of Iowa has been reduced to 1/10 of 1% to make room for farming and housing. In other words, if Iowa was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, only one piece would be undeveloped nature.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

"Pieces of History" Mural in Wadena, MN

For the entire month of June, I have been painting as part of a community project in Wadena, MN.

My assistant Michael Beachy, a local art student, and project director David Evert working behind him.

BEFORE... this is what the wall looked like before we started.

And AFTER... the finished mural! It is intended to look like a big jigsaw puzzle, to fit with the "Pieces of History" theme of the project. This is the first in what it is hoped will be an onoing project to depict the history of Minnesota in Wadena.

It's an orgy of bird life, with blue herons and the state bird, the loon, which is almost as big as a goose, and its babies ride on its back!

Details of eagles. Notice the painted turtle on the log, which was painted in on the last day on the town barber's request.

I could not have done it without the help of many, many friends, including Hope, who is helping me here to touch up nail holes once it was installed.

Catching a big Northern pike with new friends in MN. (...note the plastic gloves; it all seems a little icky to this city girl)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tornado hits Minnesota!

On June 20, a tornado and wind storm hit both the county I am living in (Ottertail) and the county I am working in (Wadena). I was painting the mural indoors at the Wadena Emporium when the storm hit: the sky turned green with black swirling clouds, hail rained down, and the windows shook. Then the sky went dark. The power went out and we all sat by candlelight listening to the radio, until the local station got hit by lightning, and the radio went out. I am lucky enough to be painting in a very secure building, so many people fled the storm to join us in our candlelit safety, including one woman who had seven trees fall in her yard, one through her roof. What surprised me most was how graciously everyone weathered the weather, even those with massive damage to their property seemed affably awed by the power of nature. The home I am staying at in Ottertail is just not the same, as all the trees on the property were lost. Here is a picture of my yard after the storm.

The top of this tree was lopped off right next to the house. Although much damage was done in two counties, I haven't heard about any injuries, and many houses were luckily just missed by falling trees.

Man VS. Nature.... nature wins!

It was tragic to see all the beautiful old trees felled by the winds,

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The New York Mills Cultural Center has graciously allowed me to use their beautiful upstairs studio space to work on wire dress forms for the next project.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Work in progress...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

First Stop

Ottertail, Minnesota (population 451) is where I am laying my head these days, while I paint a mural in the neighboring town of Wadena. Small town life is something to get used to again after Chicago. I need to remember to pay AFTER pumping gas, and get used to people looking at me like I'm crazy when I lock my car door. I was near here last year with the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, making the Corn Dress, and the Alley Arts project in Wadena asked me to come back and help get an ambitious mural project started in their town.

"Pieces of History" Mural

The theme of the mural is Minnesota history and I am painting a prairie scene of the Lakota Sioux. More pics to come of its progress...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

First Days on the Road

Driving through Sauk City, WI, the sky lit up with an amazing rainbow, a good omen for the journey! I am on my way to Wadena, MN, to help the town with a mural project they are starting. I will try to jump over to the Dakotas on my days off to create a dress sculpture.... Does anyone have any contacts in North or South Dakota?

Leaving my home in Chi-town

Getting a little help (?!) from my friends....

Sunday, May 29, 2005

All of my possessions have been sold, stored or given away, and my life has been edited down to what I can fit in my 1986 Volkswagen camper van. I am set to travel for the State of Dress project for the next year or so.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

ILLINOIS: "State of Dress" benefit art auction

On April 23, 2005 Saverio Truglia Photography generously hosted a benefit art auction in his new studio space to raise funds for the next leg of "State of Dress". Over 200 people ate, drank, danced, and made merry while 25 of my paintings were auctioned off, as well as donated artworks by Chicago artists: Katie Baker, Elke Claus, Eduardo De Soignie, Mark McGinnis, Paul Munro, Doc Sanjuro, Galina Shevchenko, Renata Stojkowski, and Saverio Truglia. Rocking the house was Matt Faunce, Environmental Encroachment, MoFoe and Jungle Street Rockers, all under the blessings of MC LA*JC, who also took a turn on the turntables.

Over $2000 was raised to help fund the next leg of State of Dress. The money will go towards the purchase of a digital video camera to document the project. Party photos by Jake Setlak.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

MINNESOTA: "Corn Dress"

MINNESOTA: "Corn Dress" was created in September of 2004, while I was an artist-in-residence at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in New York Mills, Minnesota, supported in part by a grant from the Jerome Foundation. "Corn Dress" was created with a 14-foot-tall welded steel frame, complete with a built-in ladder. It was 6-foot wide at its base. This sculpture was made possible by the hands of many wonderful volunteers, in a corn field belonging to Ray Sonnenberg and Brian Sillanpa of Homestead Valley Estates. Photo by Kevin Cederstrom.

This sculpture is dedicated to the memory of Ray Sonnenberg, whose humor and goodwill charmed the creation of "Corn Dress". Ray passed away shortly after I left Minnesota, and he will be missed by all who were lucky enough to know him.

Assisiting in the construction of the "Corn Dress" frame were students from Paul Detloff's welding class at New York Mills high school.

About 200 people visited "Corn Dress" the day it opened, with some visitors driving over 60 miles to see it. It was covered by several local newspapers and television stations.