Portrait of the Artist

Libby Barret

Taking a Seat

By Noelani Kirschner | July 20, 2020
<em>moving around slowly</em>, screen print with acrylic paint on raw canvas, 2 x 40 x 54 inches, 2019.
moving around slowly, screen print with acrylic paint on raw canvas, 2 x 40 x 54 inches, 2019.

Libby Barret continually returns to a particular object in her painting and printmaking: the chair. Her artistic interest in chairs began when she visited France in 2018. She happened to notice, in every village that she visited, a myriad of interesting examples, and when she saw the value French culture places on rest and relaxation, she began to question the withering pace of work and life in the United States. “Of course, work is a part of this life, and it is a fulfilling and gratifying thing to work,” she says, “but I also find that there can be a burnout in work without rest.”

As an object, the chair carries many meanings. It can be a symbol of respite, a signpost for the weary, or an invitation to take a break, sit, and reflect. Chairs, designed to accommodate the human form, also possess anthropomorphic qualities. “The chair is also closely related to a human figure, and is able to mimic the unique and beautiful variety of people on this earth” says Barret. “The chair can be bent over, broken, misplaced, found, or remade,” much like people. Barret’s painting, moving around slowly, explores these different meanings. “I wanted to highlight the positioning a chair can take throughout a day, or a week, or a year,” Barret says. “This piece is one of my favorites because of the way it creates a flipped perspective and gives the viewer more authority on what it means.”

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