There are few things in this world that transcend the cultural barriers that separate us and instead unite us as one people. Art is one of them. It holds the power to connect individuals through common language, to communicate feelings that the written word cannot. Art has the ability to comfort and provoke, to evoke feelings of great joy and great sorrow. It provides shelter to those looking to escape the material world, if only just for a minute.
For artist Sierra Barnes, art healed her soul when her body was struggling to.
The influence of art in Barnes’ life dates back to when she was a mere five years old. While most children were worried about who’s turn was next on the playground swing, Barnes had just undergone an intensive surgery to remove a benign tumor discovered in her brain. With emotions running high and nowhere to express them, Barnes’ mother handed her a canvas and told her to paint. That one simple act would change the course of her life.
“I don’t think I really even knew what art was or how it would help me,” says Barnes. “I think I just knew it was something I really enjoyed doing.” She went on to name this piece, her first ever painting, Complicated.
From a hobby to a life passion to a career, art has proven to be the most grounding, provocative, vocal medium of expression for Barnes. Now, she even dares to consider art as something of a lifeline—the one thing she simply could not live without. Her trademark motto is: “I am an artist and a writer creating in a world full of chaos.”
Painting abstract figures is her pick of poison—or in this case, elixir. There is a sense of mystery involved in how each viewer will dissect and interpret the image differently than the next. There is something so thrilling in creating with no expected outcome. Armed with a repertoire of acrylic and watercolor techniques, Barnes’ brush glides effortlessly along canvas, each completed piece depicting what she describes as a “different thought, emotion or side of myself.”
She does not stop there, though. Each of Barnes’ paintings are accompanied by a poem, written by her, explaining her innermost thoughts during the making of that painting. They are retrospective and painfully thoughtful, further breathing life into each work of art. Her multifaceted approach to art encourages conversation between interpreters with different perspectives and leaves each viewer both mesmerized and puzzled by a work’s emotional complexity.
When it comes to Barnes’ creative process, each time is different. Sometimes the vision is premeditated, and her mind seems to drive where the brush will stroke across a page. Other times, it is a specific hue that sparks her interest. Still other times, her inspiration first takes form in written word and is later translated onto canvas. Regardless, Barnes’ creative drive seems to mirror the same mantra she lives daily life by: Wherever the art goes is where you will find her.
Today, Rock Diva Art (Barnes’ business name) boasts a collection of abstract artwork, where patrons can purchase original canvas paintings or converted prints. Her work is scanned onto greeting cards, tumblers and other trinkets for your personal enjoyment. “I just try and follow my heart, passion and dreams,” she says.
Under extraordinary, even life-threatening, circumstances Barnes learned to not only get by but flourish with the cards she was dealt. Watching her work is like observing someone under some kind of enchanted spell. Overcome by passion and an unmatched zest for self-expression, it is evident just how at ease Barnes is in her creative zone. “When I am creating, it’s like I’m in a meditative state. I feel so calm and relaxed,” she says.
For her, home must be wherever the art is.
Joanne Xu is a part-time freelance writer and blogger living in Austin.