Bryn Barnard

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So far Bryn Barnard has created 16 blog entries.

Imagination Takes Flight

By |November 7th, 2009|Uncategorized|

About six months ago, I entered a public art competition, organized by the city government of Beaverton, Oregon, to design a piece of art for the municipal library. This airy, wood-and-glass structure is designed to look like a stylized rain-forest. It...

Imagination Takes Flight

By |November 7th, 2009|Uncategorized|

About six months ago, I entered a public art competition, organized by the city government of Beaverton, Oregon, to design a piece of art for the municipal library. This airy, wood-and-glass structure is designed to look like a stylized rain-forest. It...

The Plague Doctor is In

By |November 7th, 2009|Uncategorized|

VariolizationWhile the H1N1 pandemic rages and our lawmakers debate the merits of national healthcare, my exhibit Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History, has a new home for the next three months: the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington...

The Plague Doctor is In

By |November 7th, 2009|Uncategorized|

Variolization

While the H1N1 pandemic rages and our lawmakers debate the merits of national healthcare, my exhibit Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History, has a new home for the next three months: the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC. The 30 paintings and 7 maps are from my book Outbreak, published by Crown in 2005. As you may recall from previous posts, Outbreak focuses on six diseases: bubonic plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, cholera, yellow fever and influenza, with sidebars on toxoplasma, malaria and AIDS. As the title suggests, this is not just a recounting of epidemics, but a social history of public health through the lens of disease.

Armistice Day, San Francisco, 1918

The NMHM started out in 1862 as the Army Medical Museum, a division of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. It is on the campus of the Walter Reed Army hospital. To complement the paintings, the staff selected a few items from the Museum's collection of 24 artifacts. Visitors are greeted by a life-size costumed model of a beak-masked plague doctor. The Museum also installed four exhibit cases with artifacts and specimens related to the diseases in the book—a wax model of the face of a 15-year-old boy with lesions resulting from small pox, a tuberculosis-prevention brick engraved with the words, “Don’t spit on sidewalk ,” a lung that shows signs of bronchopneumonia resulting from the 1918 influenza pandemic, and the microscope of Walter Reed himself, the man who led the team that determined the etiology of yellow fever.


Memento Mori

The show opened on Halloween (it runs through January 22). For the opening, children made and wore medieval plague masks stuffed with dried rosemary, and created macaroni skeletons engaged in the "Dance of Death."

I'll be speaking at the Museum on December 5.


Six Days in the Hole

By |April 21st, 2009|Uncategorized|

I can't remember when I first wanted to hike the Grand Canyon. Possibly since my first car visit to the Rim with my parents, when I was a child. Possibly when I drove cross county and stopped for a look over the edge with my wife, Rebecca. But whenever the desire was sparked it's been one of those experiences I've longed to try. 


This year, over Spring Break, I finally got my chance. I hiked the Canyon with my son Parks. This was the annual Grand Canyon trip of the Friday Harbor High School hiking club, led by history teacher Jim McNairy. Twenty-two  people went, sixteen kids and six adults. This was two large a crowd to get a single hiking/camping permit. We split into two groups. Mine was led by Cheryl Opalski and her husband Kent. I added an extra set of grown-up eyes. We hiked from Hermit's Rest to Hermit Creek, then to Hermit Rapids, Boucher Rapids and Granite Rapids, with a final night at Monument before hiking back to Hermit's Rest.  The hiking was hard. The scenery was aridly gorgeous - right on the cusp of spring, with wild flowers just beginning to bloom. The weather perfect: blue skies, temperatures in the 70s, not a drop of rain, the occasional light breeze. Chamber of Commerce weather. 

I sketched every day in my Moleskin sketchbook. The cream colored pages are heavy enough to accept water color without wrinkling and the cover was robust enough to handle the rigor of the Canyon's razor-edge topography. I sketched in pencil and painted with my Cotman watercolor set.  Here's a view from Granite Rapids at sunrise and another of  our fearless leaders, Cheryl and Kent.



Two views from Hermit Creek: sunset and moonlight.


Kent challenged me to paint an especially interesting boulder next to our Hermit Creek campsite, covered in multi-colored lichens. It was challenging.



Six Days in the Hole

By |April 21st, 2009|Uncategorized|

I can't remember when I first wanted to hike the Grand Canyon. Possibly since my first car visit to the Rim with my parents, when I was a child. Possibly when I drove cross county and stopped for a look over the edge with my wife, Rebecca. But wheneve...

Pictures at an Exhibition

By |December 29th, 2008|Uncategorized|





At last, some images have arrived from Outbreak, my solo show at the Smithsonian's Global Health Odyssey Museum at  the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Outbreak is an educational show, and for this reason alone you won't be reading about it in ArtForum anytime soon. It's didactic. Like my book of the same title, the shows turns on the idea  that epidemics have shaped us. The paintings, though framed and hung, are unapologetically illustrations. They tell stories.


The GHO curator, Louise Shaw, has taken concepts from the book and turned them into questioning super-graphics that provide context. I think it all looks pretty terrific.

Only 30 more days to see Outbreak in Atlanta. If you can't get there, enjoy these pictures.

Pictures at an Exhibition

By |December 29th, 2008|Uncategorized|

At last, some images have arrived from Outbreak, my solo show at the Smithsonian's Global Health Odyssey Museum at  the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Outbreak is an educational show, and for this reason alone you won't be reading about it in...

The CDC contains an ‘Outbreak’ of cultural curiosities

By |November 26th, 2008|Uncategorized|


November 20, 2008 at 9:30 am by Cinque Hicks in A&E
“Remember that you are mortal”).

DEATH BECOMES THEM: A skeletal death works in the world of pathogenic microbes in “Memento Mori” (translation: “Remember that you are mortal”).

Did the bubonic plague extinguish Europe’s feudal caste system and trigger the rise of the middle-class bourgeoisie? Did yellow fever end the trafficking of African slaves to the New World? Did the Spanish flu halt World War I? According to Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History currently on view at the CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum, the answers are maybe, maybe and maybe. And although it’s assuredly an oversimplification to attribute some of history’s biggest events to any single cause, Outbreak puts forth the intriguing notion that many of the defining currents of human social and cultural history around the globe have at least been influenced by some of the planet’s smallest inhabitants.

Outbreak
 is the artistic brainchild of painter and illustrator Bryn Barnard. Barnard’s 2005 book of the same name targets middle school children with lush gouache and oil paintings that bring to life key moments in world history. It shows how a slew of unimaginably destructive epidemiological disasters gave us the world we live in now. The current CDC exhibit comprises Barnard’s original paintings along with maps and text borrowed from the book. It’s the first collected public showing of the work, and as is typical for CDC exhibitions, Outbreak aims to make explicit connections between broad health issues and daily life.

Curator Louise Shaw glides though the exhibit, stopping here and there to point out a few noteworthy works. She pauses before a small painting of cholera victims being unloaded at the port of Jaffa in Tel-Aviv. Until 1912, cholera was one of the major hazards facing those who made the Muslim pilgrimage known as Hajj. “This is my favorite painting in the show,” says Shaw. “It’s sort of like a Gérôme.”

“Or Delacroix,” I add.

“Yeah, all those 19th-century French painters!”

Our obscure art historical references point out the tightrope Shaw and her CDC colleagues must constantly walk in their programming for the museum. A show designed for middle schoolers must also appeal to adults, tourists, CDC staff and government bureaucrats alike. Global Health Odyssey is a federally funded educational institution, not an art center, and even a casual visit requires an automobile search and a trip through a metal detector. But once visitors undergo the “CDC experience,” as staffers call the rigorous security protocol, the facility offers a slice of culture unavailable anywhere else in the city. Examining health by way of art, design and other cultural artifacts is where the CDC excels.

Shaw turns and we head away from the port of Jaffa and toward feudal Europe. The cholera illustration may be her favorite painting in the show, but her favorite disease is the so-called Black Death, which killed nearly 24 million Europeans between 1346 and 1351. (It’s not unusual for CDC staff members to have “favorite” diseases.)

Barnard has illustrated this ignominious moment in history with a painting of a doctor comforting a distraught young woman while a male relative lies dying in the background. The painting is loaded with historical and cultural details: the crucifix on the wall, the bowl used for bloodletting, the smattering of dead mice on the floor.

Perhaps most striking is the doctor’s period costume, which consists of a long robe, white gloves, a flat, wide-brimmed hat, and a mask with glass lenses and a long beak-like protrusion. The beaked masksurvives to this day in Carnivale and Mardi Gras celebrations, illustrating Barnard’s point: that the culture wrought in times of great disease and pestilence flows like a tributary into the sweeping river of history and lets out into the present in often surprising ways. In the Black Death’s case, feudal Europe was a festering stinkhole full of illiterates walking streets clogged with garbage and human waste. Meanwhile, universities flourished in the Middle East and the Aztecs traversed well-maintained roads complete with public pay toilets at regular intervals.

All that changed, however, when a third of Europe’s population succumbed to the bubonic plague over just five years. With a smaller labor force, wages increased, prices decreased, wealth was accumulated and, voila!, a middle class was born. At least that’s the short version of the story. Social history is far too complex to assert that the Yersinia pestis bacterium single-handedly created the middle class. But as an agent of history, its influence is undeniable.

Judy Gantt is the museum’s director. Her favorite disease is the Spanish Flu. That pandemic’s currently thought to be the deadliest in human history, racking up a hefty body count between 60 and 100 million worldwide. Gantt points to Outbreak’s power to help visitors consider what impact present-day diseases may be having on our culture now and in the future.

“AIDS certainly is having an effect,” says Gantt, who also cites chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes as potential game changers. Both Shaw and Gantt talk about how “smart” the AIDS virus is, how it has learned to survive everything humans have thrown at it, and how it is certainly changing society in Africa, the U.S. and elsewhere.

Of course we won’t know the full impact of AIDS and other current epidemics on world culture for generations. Artists of perhaps the 22nd and 23rd centuries will have to take that up. But as the CDC’s scientists work toward the prevention of these diseases, we can hope for a day when red ribbons follow the same course as the plague doctors’ masks — the signs of inevitable death transformed by history into a symbol to all revelers that there’s reason to let the good times roll.

Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History. Through Jan. 30. Free. Mon.-Wed. and Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Global Health Odyssey Museum, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road. 404-639-0830. www.cdc.gov/gcc/exhibit.