School year 1974. One fire safety poster is disqualified from competition because, “There is just no way a child could have drawn this by himself.” His art teacher tried to intervene and convince the judges that Barry could, and had done the work himself. The young artist went home heartbroken.
A childhood naturalist, a teenage surrealist, a professional muralist, and now a seasoned impressionist, Barry Conner is serious about ART, and is driven by an artistic balance between perfectionism and expressionist spontaneity. Although his work and subjects are surprisingly varied, that same striving for aesthetic excellence is pervasive through it all.
Barry Conner is an American artist, born in East Texas, whose work has always attracted attention. From the time that he was walking and talking, Barry was also doing artwork. From early on, he excelled in art shows and contests. His parents recognized his ability and interest. They helped him with art materials, took him to exhibits and museums, and were supportive through each endeavor and opportunity. By the age of twelve, Barry had participated in an adult exhibit of wildlife art with The Audubon Society and had sold acrylic paintings at the downtown arts and crafts fair. He even was the subject of a feature magazine in the local newspaper. Much of Barry’s earliest art tended toward natural realism — often drawn or painted — with occasional forays into sculpture, cartoonist abstraction, and other creative explorations.
By his late teens, his love of such aesthetic explorations as surrealism and minimalism were finding their way into his work. Through the years, Barry embraced every opportunity to pursue his artwork both in school and on his own time, eventually going on to major in Fine Arts at Sam Houston State University, with a Studio Art emphasis in Sculpture. He studied under such notable artists as sculptor Charles Pebworth, printmaker Stanley E. Lea, and painters Gaddis Geeslin and Harry J. Ahysen.
From his teenage years and into adulthood, Barry spent countless hours professionally, as a working artist, developing his skills in the broad range of Fine Art genre and art media: nature, landscape, and wildlife scenes; realistic illustrations; avant-garde, symbolic, and surrealist works; expressionism and abstract expressionism; minimalism; plein air; still life; and both traditional portraiture and the representations of cherished pets; Fine Art murals and trompe l’oeil illusions for both private and commercial locations; drawings in pen-and-ink, graphite, charcoal, pastel, conté, and other pigments; sculptures; jewelry design, fabrication, and lost-wax castings; lapidary and faceting of gemstones; ceramics; glasswork; zinc-plate etching, stone lithography, inked woodcut, screened images, digitally-created prints, and other forms of printmaking; even computer graphics, drafting, photography, sign painting, and the stone knapping of both ornamental pieces and functional arrowheads. He also shared his experience with others as a private art instructor.
A transformative conversion experience at age twenty established Barry’s Christian faith, and he was soon bringing hope and emergency supplies to survivors of the great Mexico City earthquake of 1985, as part of the international YWAM organization. Barry’s confidence in the faithfulness of God and in the power and authority of Jesus Christ has had a dramatic and enduring impact on his life and art ever since. “Hope Endures”, 2015, and “Unto you is born this day a Savior”, 2000, exemplify such influences.
In his mid thirties, through his services as a muralist/painter, subcontracted for custom homes and commercial properties, Barry found new expressive freedom in painting broadly and quickly on the much larger “canvas” provided in a mural wall. From that time forward, his personal stylistic inspiration has leaned toward an emphasis on large acrylic paintings developed in a manner some ways reminiscent of the Impressionist School, but with the energy and spontaneity Barry had loved about his past mural paintings. “Surrealist Sunrise”, 2014, and “Mammoth Rock Seascape”, 2015, exemplify this approach.
In 1998, a very different work opportunity led him into a fifteen-year, full-time career doing computer-based GIS mapping. Even in this position, he often was called on for major art projects. Meanwhile, he continued pursuing his art independently, as his primary responsibilities and time would allow.
In 2013, he finally was able to rededicate his time and efforts fully to his art. He and his wife relocated from Huntsville, Texas to the Kingwood-Humble area northeast of Houston for about three years. Barry first exhibited his work in the 2014 Small Works Show at The Red Palette Art Gallery in Humble. In 2015, he sought and received the position of Artist’s Assistant to the internationally acclaimed abstract painter Marilyn Biles, of Houston. In February of that same year — through a kind referral from Mrs. Biles — fourteen pieces of his artwork were placed by owner Joey Quiroga for exhibit at Tremont Gallery Galveston, Texas.
In March of 2015, Barry was asked for by the set-design manager at Texas Repertory Theatre — in The Champions, Texas — to serve as an emergency fill-in artist in place of their regular scenic artist. Barry’s services on the project led to his being offered, and accepting the position of Resident Scenic Artist there, where he served for over a year. He continued pursuing his own artwork, mostly between productions. Creating very large-scale art for the theatre stage was reminiscent of the mural painting he had enjoyed from years earlier. His work in the theatre environment served to broaden his experience in The Arts, provided an introduction to many wonderful people, and gave him additional professional exposure in the Greater-Houston Area.
In 2016, Tremont Gallery became From the Heart Gallery, under the direction of Scott and Samitha Edwards. Barry remains an artist with that new gallery. December of 2016 marked another transition, when Barry and his wife relocated to New Braunfels, in the Texas Hill Country, on a new business venture called Artist’s Garden. This “garden/art” themed specialty store teams their respective passions and expertise, “where gallery and garden meet”.
The development of large, expressive acrylic canvases has been a primary emphasis in Barry’s artwork since 2013. This work accords well both with his experience as a muralist, and with over a year spent at the theatre. But this stylistic shift actually grew out of his enjoyment for large-scale, free-movement spontaneity and expression in his paintings. Many of these have an impressionistic quality. These dramatic pieces are also better suited to the spacious wall areas of large homes and commercial installations.
An appreciation for minimalist and abstract aesthetics also continues to influence his work. He has also revisited his early interest as a sculptor. Additionally, there has been an ongoing undercurrent of occasionally edgy, conceptual, didactic, or symbolic paintings. These have provided an outlet for creative, cathartic, and ideological expression, but have yet to be shown publicly. Conceptually, philosophical and religious aspects can be seen in much of Barry’s art.
Very recent aesthetic and thematic developments include Barry’s new interpretations of his native Texas — especially as inspired by the Gulf Coast and Texas Hill Country regions. His appreciation for the beauty intrinsic in the natural world, and notably in the indigenous and naturalized plant life of Texas will, of course, be reflected in new paintings for Artist’s Garden.
Selected artwork by Barry Conner may be found at From the Heart Gallery, in Galveston, Texas; at Artist’s Garden in New Braunfels, Texas; at; in the bookstore of Second Baptist Church, Kingwood, Texas; and at BarryConnerFineArts.com, online. Any Barry Conner artwork which is available may be purchased through From the Heart Gallery, in Galveston, Texas, including the Barry Conner signature line of clothing from VIDA.
Along with Barry’s inborn, lifelong impetus for creative art, his professional artistic background, training and education, life experiences, spiritual faith, practical skills and ingenuity, versatility with artistic styles and methods, and his creative vision provide him a unique basis for his works. The creation of innovative, meaningful, and impactful Fine Art is both an enduring passion and a tremendous joy.
Whatever your interest, whether one of Barry Conner’s original works as seen online, or something exhibited at a show or gallery location; or whether you would like to discuss having unique commissioned works of art as imagined and created specifically for you, Barry would be delighted to hear from you.