Exhibitions

Al & Nanci Barnes on view through May 7
Al & Nanci Barnes

Al Barnes
Award-winning artists and prominent figures in the Rockport Community, Al & Nanci Barnes exhibit together April 6 - May 7, 2011. They are the only couple to both be Rockport Art Festival Poster Artists (Al in 1995 and Nanci in 2007). Al's well known style of painting the coastal scenes of Texas and the Caribbean and Nanci's impressive architectural ceramics have made them a life-long force in the art world of South Texas.




tropic skimmers



More about Al & Nanci Barnes:

Surrounded by majestic Oaks, on a quiet lane near Aransas Bay in Rockport, the home of artists Nanci and Al Barnes is a virtual sanctuary.  The setting is peaceful and serene, akin to the quietness of a remote tropical island.  Once inside, however, a symphony of creative energy is evident, at every turn.  Recognized as distinguished artists, Nanci and Al have thrived in the atmosphere for over 30 years.  Within the compound, their separate his and her studios give them space for their artistic endeavors.

One might wonder how two exceptional artists manage to co-exist in close proximity.  “It is essential for us to have our private studios,” said Al, “but, our support for each other is invaluable.  Nanci is my in-house critic on my art, along with other matters.”  With creative energy running rampant, the two artists maintain their individuality.  “Painting is intellectual and mental,” said Nancy, “and, ceramics is more peaceful and soothing.  Each of our studios has its special aura of energy.” 

A renowned painter, Al has deep roots in South Texas.  From Cuero to Port Isabel, his family has left their footprints.  After growing up in Long Island, New York, Nanci, a ceramic artist, found herself in Texas when her father acquired land near Alice.  The talented duo met while attending the University of Texas in Austin, and their life together has been an artful journey of collective and individual accomplishments.

Al began his career as a commercial artist in Dallas, but in the late 60’s he followed his impulses and committed his life to painting.  “An artist can live anywhere,” he said, “but, being close to the water serves as an inspiration.  I was drawn to the Texas coast.”  Originally, Al and Nanci purchased a small beach house at Ingleside on the Bay.  After Hurricane Celia blew it away, they gravitated to Rockport.  “The birding and fishing is world class,” he said, “and, the abundant wildlife offers endless subject matter.”  Al’s exhibitions and one-man shows throughout the nation necessitate travel, but he is always happy to return to the shore. 

When Al embarked on a full-time career as a painter, he focused on coastal scenes, seascapes, the boats that ply the waterways and the bountiful wildlife.  Later, he expanded his scope to include works of sporting art.  “I view my work as environmental art depicting the coast and the Hill Country,” he said, “and, Nanci and I enjoy spending time in both places.”  Tucked away between Johnson City and Fredricksburg, the Barnes’ cabin retreat is surrounded by 17 acres, with a creek running through it.  In these surroundings, Al recently completed 5 new paintings.  His interest in the area has prompted him to participate with members of the National Western Art Foundation, in an effort to raise funds for a new museum in San Antonio.

At the Barnes’ Rockport home, Al’s studio is a haven with walls of glass overlooking the wooded grounds, generous light and a cozy woodburning fireplace.  Works created here have won acclaim at exhibitions in Wisconsin, Dallas, Mystic, Connecticut, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Cincinnati Museum of Art, the Waterfowl Festival in Maryland, the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Vermont, the Anguilla International Arts Festival in the British West Indies and the Society of Animal Artists in Denver.  His works are represented by The Sportsman’s Gallery in Atlanta and Beaver Creek and the prestigious Meredith Long Gallery in Houston, where he recently had a one-man show.  Among the  awards received from State and National organizations, Al has been honored as the Texas Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year, as the Bill Fish Foundation Featured Artist, the Coastal Conservation Stamp Artist and as the International Game Fish Association Featured Artist.
 
When he accepts a private commission, he first paints a landscape.  Once in place, a bird, a boat or a group of hunters might begin to appear.  “Wildlife art is fun,” he said, “and, like all art, it is a constant learning experience.”  He shares this philosophy with young artists and encourages them to continue to strive and be honest and true.  “Most importantly, I urge them to do what they love to do.”

On the other side of the Barnes’ compound, a path through the garden leads to Nanci’s studio.  Initially Nanci was a painter, but she later became captivated by the beauty of ceramics.  “Earth, air, fire and water are the basic principles of physical presence in the world,” she said, “and, working with ceramics encompasses all of that.”  Nancy equates the earth to clay, the air as energy for the fire and water as the mover of the clay.  It is a theory to which she subscribes and deeply respects.  Her spiritual connection to the earth is prevalent in her art.

After years of working in functional ceramics, Nancy turned her attention to other forms.  She has won acknowledgment for her large vessels, using imagery to provide insight into nature.  “The color is extremely important,” said Nanci, “and, it must have depth, richness and movement.”  In residences throughout the Coastal Bend, she is noted for architectural enhancements such as door surrounds, ceramic house number plaques, artistic transoms over doorways and fireplace surrounds.  Her signature Blue Herons often embellish a home’s design.  Nanci has accepted commissions to create magnificent wall fountains, and her artistic works are designed to withstand the elements for all time.  She was honored to be included in the Architectural Ceramics for the Studio Potter, by Lark Publications, for a slab and relief sculpture she created for a home on Aransas Bay.  Locally, Nanci’s works are on display at The Gallery of Rockport on Austin Street.

Though they work in separate studios, the bonds between Al and Nanci Barnes are far reaching.  They cherish their relationships with their son Collin and his wife Indu, their son Thad and his wife Robin and grandchildren Nelson and Charlotte.  They are united in their belief that the imagery in art is a powerful tool to influence the collective unconscious; and, the passion they feel for their art is only rivaled by their devotion to preserving the natural environment.