This special collection of artworks capture only a fraction of the truly prolific work that John Barrett made in his lifetime. Walking through his archives, now housed in his widow’s home in Shandon, California, is like walking back in time — dozens of large paintings consume the garage, guest bedrooms are full of small drawings, sketches, sculptures, prints and many letters, to friends, government officials, and artists he admired. John Barrett suffered a brain injury as a child and was diagnosed with learning disabilities in the late 1950s. In spite of his limitations in literacy, he pursued his education at El Camino Community College in Torrance, California. Living in a garage, with limited resources, and determined to learn more about making art, John was instrumental in initiating the schools’ first lithography lab, and became a student teacher in lithography and printmaking. In 1972 he made the Dean’s List.
John was a mental health advocate all of his life, a passionate blood donor, a Dachshund dog-lover and a beloved husband. John’s work is urgent and unpretentious — in it we find references to pop culture icons such as Popeye, Godzilla and Fred Flintstone, to timely socio-political happenings, climate change and COVID-19, to seasons of John’s own life. For example, Bananaland references John’s employment as a meat cutter. All of his paintings were made with cheap house paintbrushes; he found that they gave him the flexibility and quickness that he needed. Amongst all of the documentation of John’s life well-lived is this reflection from a fellow artist and friend: “It was John’s empathy that really spoke volumes… That is something I shall always remember.”
About the Artist
John Barrett was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1952, and raised in Manhattan Beach, California. He began pursuing his career as an artist in the late 1960s influenced by his great-grandfather, who was also a painter. His grandmother, a photographer and woodworker, gave him his first oil paints and enrolled him in drawing lessons at age 10. His work has been seen at galleries and festivals throughout California. John Barrett passed away in 2021 at age 69.
Every Saturday at 11 AM: Join a free tour of the exhibition led by our trained docents. Check in at the front desk.
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