Gregory Barry is an Ashburnham-based artist whose work lies at the crossroads of drawing, sculpture and installation. Barry’s sculpture is a three-dimensional experience, based on his belief in the simple and fundamental transactions between people and objects. This means that his sculptures are not only abstractions or decorations but should be understood as a commentary on contemporary societal values. Her objects incorporate natural and abandoned materials like aluminum wire, plywood and rocks in sculptures that serve to highlight their past life. As Barry says: “The history of materials becomes important in this work because it brings voice, conversation, awareness and curiosity to the material’s previous existence. Barry strives to create unity between people and their natural environment by allowing them to connect through materials, space, light and shadow.
Barry’s works are characterized by the question of how humans interact with nature. Emphasizing the creative process as much as the work, Barry identifies with the essential river, breath, movement and life. It reveals the incessant movement at the heart of the natural cycle which, over time, alters beings and things, and is driven by the desire to understand nature in its evolution and decline. The fundamental ideas of his approach are growth, change, transformation and temporality. He comes out of the condition of humanity to understand the condition of nature itself. The “Open Forms” sculpture, for example, is a collection of pieces of wood in distinct colors, screwed together to create contrasting shapes, which he then wraps around a tree trunk. This sculpture reflects the differentiation between man and nature while emphasizing the connection of one to the other.
In his sculpture “Plates,” Barry uses discarded wood from construction sites to create intricate patterns and shapes. The emphasis on recycling and improving the earth is clear in this sculpture as it apparently depicts two tectonic plates. Metaphorically, it is a commentary on climate change and the impact of humans on the ecology of our planet. Barry’s sculptures are rich in meaning, but have organic shapes and are often light in appearance. This playfulness is contradicted by the dark commentary of the work.
The strategic use of wood in Barry’s art plays with light and shadow, appealing to the need for sunlight in all natural beings. It reconnects these treated woods to their natural roots. The sculpture “Ply” is a wall installation that deliberately plays with light and shade. The small pieces of plywood broken and joined together create a raised wavy shape against the wall. The piece is intended to give a sense of movement and new life to old materials, producing a second, third and even fourth life of matter.
Barry does not interfere with the material, accepting anything that may interfere with the work. He finds that history, age and the traces of the human hand add character and individuality to all of his works. These individual aspects of each work are inseparable from its creation, allowing history to be integrated into its sculptures. Learning and understanding through touch and making is a simple but deeply important part of her work. His enthusiasm and wonder are expressed through the creation of each sculpture.
With visual ties to minimalism and environmental art, Barry creates an interaction between sculpture and space. The sculptures are presented in the same environment as that of the viewer, creating an intersection between human life, nature and art. He creates experiences that are not just visual, but engage all of the human senses. Writhe sculpture is an organic form that gives us the feeling that the sculpture is in motion. It is as if the sculpture has arms that extend out and take the viewer’s space and attention. The sculpture therefore refuses to simply sit in space: it inhabits it.
The works were designed for a viewer to walk alongside them, interacting directly with their surroundings and location. Sculptures are not static. Rather, they seem to be on the move. If we look at them from different angles, our perception also seems to be in motion. The beauty of her work is its openness – each viewer brings their own interpretation of the work, an interpretation that is generated by their own memories.
“Art History 201: Art, the Public, and Worcester’s Cultural Institutions” at Clark University gives students the opportunity to work closely with contemporary regional artists. With individual artists from ArtsWorcester’s gallery programs, students hone their visual and critical skills by producing short essays positioning the artists’ work in the history of contemporary art. This year, the students also curated small selections of their artist’s work for these projectors online. This collaboration was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.