July 13, 2012 —
The exhibition features more than 40 wood carvings by Elliott County folk artist. Barker, like many of his generation, had been a part of the great Appalachian outmigration during the two decades that followed World War II.
Upon his retirement as a technician from a northern Indiana steelworks, he and his wife, Lillian, moved back home to Elliott County. With early encouragement from the famed folk artist Minnie Adkins and the upstart folk art center at MSU, he took up wood carving as a way to keep himself busy and find a new sense of purpose in his post-retirement life. Barker would go on to create some of the most beautiful and recognizable wood sculptures in the history of folk art. He only carved for a few years before his death in 2004.
Recent years have seen an ever increasing demand for Barker’s sculptures on the collectors market as the art world finally began to recognize the significance of his work. This exhibition represents the first ever retrospective showing of Barker’s work. Most of the pieces in this exhibition come from the collection of Rita Biesiot.
In a brief statement written for the exhibition catalog, Biesiot writes:
“While I have a large collection of other folk art, mostly three dimensional and mostly made by Kentucky folk artists, my Barkers are my pride and joy, my favorite pieces by far. His work is unique and quite striking, almost like fine art. I still find myself picking up a piece every now and then to feel the wood, to examine the fine lines and features, and to just take in its wonderfulness. I think of Linvel and the great love he had for his wife, Lillian, and the joy they shared making art.”
“Barker’s carvings will continue to be objects of insight and the subject of inquiry,” said Adrian Swain, KFAC artistic director. “His art represents his fascination with life. His body of work remains, now that he is gone, for us to appreciate and to be inspired by his unique vision. We couldn’t be happier that Rita Biesiot is willing to share her fine collection with the public.”
Kentucky Folk Art Center is a cultural, educational and economic development service of Morehead State University. The Center is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 606-783-2204 or go to www.kyfolkart.org.