The everyday rational world coexists with a mystical and magical world in Debra Barnhart’s artwork. While she uses realistic subjects, her artworks have an otherworldly atmosphere. The artist’s influences are wide, ranging from the biological sciences to Eastern mysticism and Western mythology.
Her travels and education have contributed much to her development as an artist. According to Barnhart, her purpose as an artist “is to make the viewer experience what is magical and spiritual about life and being human. I want to inspire a sense of awe and fascination.”
As a full time artist living in Duluth, Georgia, Barnhart’s home away from home is her studio at Tannery Row Artist Colony in Buford, Georgia.
Barnhart was born in Plainfield, New Jersey and spent most of her life living in New Jersey until she and her husband moved to Georgia in 2001. A large part of Barnhart’s adult life in the north was spent working in the advertising industry in New York City; she was a media buyer for three different advertising agencies in Manhattan and an account executive at two magazines over a 16-year period. Her last position in New York was as an account executive at Art and Antiques Magazine. The artist’s 16 years in New York allowed her to gain exposure to some of the most renowned galleries, museums and art schools in the world on a regular basis. She was a frequent visitor to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She took several painting classes at the Art Students League of New York and studied at Parsons School of Design as well. Eventually her love for the visual arts led her to pursue a degree in art. In 1999 she earned of Master of Arts in Fine Arts from Montclair State University.
"Although I trained as a painter at Montclair State University in New Jersey where I earned a Master of Arts in Fine Arts, I have focused most of my attention on printmaking and digital art over the last few decades," says Barnhart. "I enjoy the process-oriented nature of both printmaking and digital art. Each of these artistic disciplines demands preparation and a series of distinct steps prior to the creation of the final product. Both also rely on mechanical methods, albeit printmaking, a process developed during the Renaissance, uses a “low-tech” printmaking press."
"I use Adobe Photoshop and an Apple MacBook Pro to compose my digital artwork. I have been working with Adobe Photoshop since the early 1990’s when I was working at an advertising agency in New York City."
Over the last year Barnhart has been working on a digital print series entitled “Myth, Legend and Religion.” Each artwork consists of a photograph of a statue layered over a photographed or scanned background that she creates by coating old National Geographic magazines with a cleaning solvent, Citrasolv. The Citrasolv “melts” often have beautiful textures and painterly effects.
Many of the prints in this series utilize photos the artist took in Europe and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Several are composed of photos of my own sculpture.
In September, 2017 Barnhart traveled to South Africa on a photo safari where she took over 1,000 photos. She has begun a new digital art series based on the animals she photographed in South Africa.