As Ty Barnes, a senior art major, turns the crank on the side of his sculpture, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” rocks out from the front facing speakers. A small flagpole slowly rises from the top of his interactive structure that proudly displays the Star-Spangled Banner. Part sculpture and part performance art, Barnes’ work is something to experience.
“It’s kinda funny––it’s supposed to be fun,” said Barnes. “The reaction I want is for people to smile and laugh.”
Once a Boy Scout himself and someone who proclaims to be a very proud American, Barnes said when the idea popped into his head, he just had to create the piece. His initial sketches for this project are very similar to the finished product.
Along with the crank and pulley system that raises the flag, the sculpture also includes a few drawers that hold replacement flags, as well as a place to burn the flag. This feature allows flags that are no longer fit for display to be destroyed in a dignified way, as noted in the proper care of the flag in the U.S. Code. Barnes’ incinerator drawer has that covered and provides an educational feature to his sculpture he calls, “America, America.”
He knew his sculpture needed to be patriotic and have a dose of humor.
“I have a few other pieces I’ve made recently, and they are all linked by humor,” said Barnes. “There are over-sized smiley faces that are at different depths hanging on a wall. They are a symbol of fun, and I made them because everybody recognizes a smiley. They are supposed to be very friendly.
“I’ve also created a Stilt Rental sculpture that was part performance art as it had a ribbon cutting ceremony with cheese and crackers to encourage people to try the experience of walking on stilts,” said Barnes.
Influenced by New York-based artist Tom Sachs, whose mixed-media work samples and borrows to reconstruct contemporary political and social references, Barnes is wrapping up his last semester at MSU and deciding what his senior thesis project will be.
One idea he is toying with is creating a dance floor that would feature music by David Bowie spinning on a record player. He wants people to be a part of his sculpture, to dance, to enjoy the music and have fun.
Creating works from constructed and found materials, Barnes took a long pause when asked what motivates him as an artist. He finally said with a grin, “I just can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s just what I do, and I can’t stop creating.”
Photography by Megan Bean
43rd MSU Student Juried Art Exhibition
March 20–April 10, 2015
Reception: March 26, 5-6:30 p.m.
Department of Art Gallery in McComas Hall
Each spring over 70 pieces of MSU student artwork are on display during the annual juried exhibition. The work, selected by a panel of jurors, is a representation of fine art, photography and graphic design. Awards are given for first, second and third place for fine art and graphic design. Most of the pieces in the show are available for purchase.