“My paintings are physical manifestations of the process of my own healing through art. From the subject to the colors and materials that I use, I create most of my art intuitively, allowing it to take its own direction. My work is inspired by my daily life, my personal experiences, and observations.”–Sierra Barnes
Sierra Barnes (www.artistsierrabarnes.com) is a 24-year-old self-taught artist, writer, and blogger. She began her artistic pursuits at the age of five, after undergoing brain surgery for a craniopharyngioma. Growing up as a “brain tumor thriver” taught the artist to grasp and translate complex emotions into an energetic visual language that challenges perception and perspective. Her creative process is guided by intuition and results in colorful abstract and figurative compositions. Her work —acrylic and watercolor on various substrates — develops its context around the notion of connection, embracing human relationships with self, surroundings, and finitude. Barnes adds a further dimension to her art by handwriting an original poem on the back of each painting.
As a firm believer in art’s healing power, Sierra Barnes is inspired to create work that will help others. Barnes has received several awards and accolades for the optimistic tone, and timelessness of her canvases, including a feature in “You’re So Lucky” by Grace Wethor, a book documenting the experiences of brain tumor survivors. Additionally, Barnes was commissioned by The Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation to create two artworks that were later presented as awards. Barnes has exhibited in several group and solo shows throughout the nation and is represented by Agora Gallery (530 West 25th Street, New York City).
Currently, the artist is exhibiting in Modalities of Memory (January 16 – February 5), a group show about “the complex nature of being human.” Barnes lives and works in Dallas, TX.
FA: What is the first creative project you remember?
My love for art began at the age of 5 after having brain surgery for a craniopharyngioma. In a way, this experience shaped my development as an artist; I painted my first painting during my recovery.
FA: What medium do you work in?
I paint with acrylic and watercolors, and sometimes mixed media. I work on canvas, wood panel, and paper.
FA: What obstacles and/or personal experiences have you encountered that have contributed to your creative process, and how do they inspire your artwork?
I’ve been expressing my feelings and emotions through art since a very young age. I painted my first painting, “Complicated,” in 2002 at five, right after coming home from the hospital after brain surgery. I’ve also lost loved ones, including my father, who was one of my biggest supporters. As a result of these experiences, I’ve dealt with anxiety. Art has helped me navigate some really difficult times. I feel that with everything that I’ve experienced, I’ve grown not just as a person but also as an artist. As a result, my artwork and poetry have deepened and greatly evolved.
FA: How have you developed your artistic career?
Even though I’m self-taught, I’ve developed my practice by reading and watching educational videos. Throughout the process, I remain open, so I can continue to learn more. One organic way to do this is by sharing my work with others, even when I have been afraid to do so.
FA: What art or art movements do you most identify with?
Abstract and abstract figurative art.
FA: Does your work comment on current social, political, or cultural issues?
Yes. Some of my artwork is about self-love and body positivity. I have dealt with these issues myself. I want to show that regardless of physical ability, size, gender, race, or appearance, we are all beautiful.
FA: What has been the most gratifying experience for you as an artist?
Having my first solo art show in 2016.
FA: Who has been a big influence on you in your career?
My biggest influence isn’t another artist, but rather my family. My mom is my best friend and a huge supporter of mine. My late father was also one of my biggest supporters. Both my parents always encouraged me to follow my passions and pursue my art.
FA: When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I try to get out in nature, go for a walk, meditate, or read something inspirational. One of these activities usually helps me reclaim a creative flow.
FA: Which current art world trends are you following?
Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to trends. I rely on my inner voice, which guides me to be my authentic self both as an artist and a person.
FA: How do you define success?
For me, success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about how many lives you impact while doing what you love. If you can do what you love and help and inspire others along the way, that’s a huge success.
FA: What legacy do you hope your work creates; what message it communicates?
My main goal is to help and inspire others. The message I hope my art will communicate is to never give up and to keep going no matter what obstacles you’ve had to overcome. Regardless of your physical ability, size, gender, race, or appearance, you are worthy and beautiful.
FA: How has your practice changed over time?
I used to be afraid to make the first mark when creating my art. I also used to think I had to have everything planned out. Now I am more open and relaxed when I approach the canvas, and I go with the flow.
FA: Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
To stay positive and keep believing in yourself.