A Brief Q&A with Ken Barnes, Amanda C. Sweet, and Anne Marie Nequette

Shift’s Second Saturday Events have given our exhibiting artists an opportunity to connect with an audience through artist talks, panels and demonstrations. In our current social distancing times, we decided to offer an alternative with a brief Q and A with our monthly featured artists.

Ken, some people may not know that your work encompasses a wide range of scale. What is the largest and smallest pieces you have created? Any comments on how this difference in scale effects the work?

My smallest works have been carved from scraps that were just too interesting to toss and are in the range of 10 pounds. I can add small details because the viewer will often be 12-24 inches away from the work. My largest pieces have been carved from 7-10,000 lb stones, including one in process now. Large-scale work is about the gesture – creating the essential form. I have the surface area to make many marks, but these marks disappear when the viewer is more than 10 feet away.

Do you have a dream project that you hope one day to create?

I proposed a mollusk medley for a beachfront park several years ago. I completed King Clam, a 3,500-lb bivalve, a few years ago. I’ve been plotting lately to add three more gargantuan shells to the collection. 

Amanda, I know your earlier work was figurative. What was the motivation to move towards a more abstract, minimalist, sequential approach?

I’ve always been interested in depicting landscapes. I grew up in a rural part of South Carolina, where most of my childhood was spent investigating my natural environment. In capturing the spirit of nature in my work rather than a traditional pictorial representation, I was able to break free of my regimented practice and take the work someplace new. This inspired me to bring chance into the creation process which ultimately welcomed surprise and the unknown.

Why do you put emphasis on the process of creating the work?

The journey of creating is my motivation. That’s where the greatest rewards lie for me. Emphasizing process means that I can spark a dialog with the audience while engaging directly with the work. I’m a very methodical painter, and I let my discoveries lead the way to what’s next. It’s unpredictable, cathartic, and enlightening. I’m looking to learn something new about myself and my environment whenever I’m creating.

Annie, in your current body of work, Sea Change, how do you reconcile the disturbing subject of forced migration caused by rising sea levels, with the beautiful images you have created?

I think of these works as mediations on the plight of millions of people.  I am worried about how the global urban poor in the largest coastal metropolitan areas will survive. We already see a clear rejection of immigrants in many of the countries who are much better off. The biggest challenge has been to hold on to hope while knowing what is to come, but that is necessary for me to do the work. This is especially difficult, but important now as we are in the first wave of the global pandemic. We can’t lose sight of the bigger problem of Climate Change. So, yes, I would say it is hope… hope that we will, as Lincoln said, summon the ‘better angels of our nature.”

How do you decide what colors, textures or patterns to use and how are they made?The collage material initially came from reusing old sketch books or other works on paper, which I then modified. Now, I draw, paint, and mono-print on Japanese rice paper as well.  The color palette and shapes for each city that I have visited come from my own photographs and experiences. If I have not been to the city, I rely on Google image for street views and for the aerial views. For example, in Alexandria, the sea is very pure and brilliant blue in the Mediterranean. There is a golden sandstone castle at the edge of the bay and an underwater archaeology museum there as well and those are reflected in the work.