As an artist and Executive Director-Curator of artCentral, our hometown non-profit arts center, I have the privilege of working with dozens of regional artists—some emerging, others in their mid-careers and several in the maturity of their creating. Multi-talented Deborah Barnett—a published poet and a performing singer-songwriter with numerous original works archived in the Library of Congress and a prolific visual artist with decades of art-making behind her—still continues to generously share her abundant gifts in a variety of hand wrought media. Most recently Deborah was one of four Featured Artists at artCentral’s annual Holiday Boutique where her collection of sophisticated mandalas filled the galleries with exquisite designs and brilliant colors.
Until recently Deborah Barnett shared a home with her musician husband. Their house was his family home where he was raised. Like most American homes constructed before 1940, their house was built in the balloon frame style with the vertical studs extending the full height of the building from foundation plate to rafter plate.
Two days before last Christmas, while temperatures hovered around four degrees with negative wind chills, the call came from a mutual artist friend, “Have you heard? Their house burned down. Down to the ground. The family got out. The dog was rescued.”
A fire starting at the bottom had spread within walls to the second floor then all the way to the top of the roof. As firefighters put water on the flames, hoses quickly froze. The house and studio spaces and all the art and all the musical instruments and everything else inside were lost.
For decades Deborah as a painter has lived and moved her brushes and pigments from the depths of her spiritual life—a lineage inherited from her maternal ancestors. As practitioners of Ozarks folklore the wise women of her family taught her an abiding reverence for the natural world—the beauty and the mysteries—the birthing and the dying and the vicissitudes that we encounter in between.
After the passing of her elderly mother, Deborah was moved to make a mandala on a wooden disc as a memorial tribute to her mother. There followed an uninterrupted mandala succession over the course of her year of mourning. All were celebrations.
Many of Deborah’s mandalas traveled home with Holiday Boutique patrons. Those that went back to her studio are now forever gone as are the creative space of their conception and all the materials Deborah had planned to use for future works.
Though Deborah has lost everything she tells me she plans to make a new body of work as a Feature Artist for artCentral’s 2023 Holiday Boutique. I believe her. I believe her passion will prevail. Deborah is a woman of grit. When many artists would be winding down she is determined to make a new beginning.
Artist Deborah Barnett is an artist in need of support. Will you please help? Will you help Deborah and her art and her family reemerge from the ashes all around them?
Donations can be made and identified for the Barnetts on artCentral’s website (artcentralcarthage.org/give4art-fund.html) or Facebook page (facebook.com/ArtcentralCarthage) or by mail (artCentral, POB 714, Carthage, Mo 64836) or by phone (417) 358-4404.
Donations may also be made at artCentral during the upcoming FOILED AGAIN! Exhibition—opening February 13, 2023, (weather alternative February 10) and showcasing the fabulously talented community of the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition through March 18!