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Creativity first, last and always for artist Johannes Barfield
Featured in 'Coined in the South' exhibit at Mint
Published Thursday, October 31, 2019 10:40 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Johannes Barfield's "In the Bilge Again" is part of the juried exhibition "Coined in the South" at the Mint Museum Uptown through Feb. 16.

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Creativity is innate for Johannes Barfield.

Pursuing anything other than art was never truly an option for the Winston-Salem native.

“I haven’t done anything else—haven’t pursued anything else as long as I have art,” Barfield said. “It’s definitely the thing I can’t get away from. You try to put some things away, but they won’t go away.”

Barfield is among 45 artists whose work appears in “Coined in the South,” a juried exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown through Feb. 16. Jurors Jonell Logan, Marilyn Zapf and Adam Justice selected 65 works to showcase among 2,000 submitted. Three cash prizes will be awarded. Barfield earned the top prize, $10,000 from Atrium Health, which was announced on opening night. In addition to the $5,000 Young Affiliates of the Mint prize, a $1,000 “People’s Choice” will be awarded before 2020. Exhibit visitors’ votes determine the recipient.
Barfield has two works in the exhibit: “The Green House on Cornell Blvd” and “In The Bilge Again.”

 “They both touch on elements of his own personal history of growing up as an African American in the South,” Mint Senior Curator of American Art Jonathan Stuhlman said.
“The Green House on Cornell Blvd” refers to Barfield’s childhood, particularly the road that his grandmother lived on. It symbolizes a meeting place for their family.
“Everybody would meet at my grandmother’s house, and it was a green house,” Barfield said. “It had an enclosed screen porch, and there was all this activity within it.”

He recalled fondly playing in that space, but also outside in the North Carolina clay.

“I had this crazy fun memory of playing with my cousin,” Barfield said. “She is featured in that portrait. I took a picture of her. I thought she was very beautiful, and I wanted to capture my family. It coincided with a project where I was shooting portraits of my family members, because I went through our photo albums, and I noticed, a lot of us are muted, and you can’t make out facial details.”

Barfield began to search for answers as to why cameras did not correctly capture black faces.

“Doing research and finding out that cameras are in some way inherently racist, they’re not able to capture darker skin tones intentionally,” he said.

Photo labs, particularly Kodak, used Shirley Cards, a photo of a white woman, to calibrate skin tone, lighting and shadows during the printing process. Barfield explained that the introduction of digital photography has not changed the standard.

The image of his cousin is part of a portrait pair.

“My portrait should be next to hers to really dive deeper into the memory I have of us playing in the red clay,” Barfield said.  

His other work, “In The Bilge Again,” focuses on a Green Book as it relates to his father. “In The Bilge Again” draws on “The Negro Motorist Greek Book,” which was created by Victor H. Green, a black mailman from New York and distributed at Esso gas stations across the country during the Jim Crow era.  


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