To me, one of the most beautiful things in the world is the page of an old book freckled yellow with age. It’s the depth, richness, and texture of such patina that I search for when sourcing materials for my handmade collages. Thus, I draw almost exclusively from discarded 19th century books and magazines of natural history, science, medicine, religion, and children’s literature. I also incorporate other types of paper ephemera, such as old ledgers, almanacs, letters and envelopes, matchbox labels, and ticket stubs, and often frame my pieces using antique frames.
My influences range from tarot cards and Hieronymous Bosch; to fraternal organization iconography (the Odd Fellows and the Freemasons especially) and Renaissance portraiture; to the Mughal paintings of the 16th-18th centuries and the monsters of Medieval marginalia. My collages are often populated by chimera, misfit saints, wayward travelers, and other apocryphal figures. These darkly whimsical beings wander up from the worlds of myths, fables, dreams, nightmares, and the afterlife. I hope my collages spark for the viewer a sense of wonder and reverie, creating a space to consider their underlying concerns, such as death, power, violence, mysticism, and the relationship between the human and animal worlds.
Brian Barker is a poet and collage artist from Denver, Colorado. His collages have been selected for the National Collage Society’s 35th annual juried show and have appeared on the cover of Denver Quarterly. He is the author of three books of poetry, Vanishing Acts (SIU Press, 2019), The Black Ocean (SIU Press, 2011), and The Animal Gospels (Tupelo Press, 2006). His poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, The Washington Post, Indiana Review, The Cincinnati Review, Blackbird, and Pleiades. He teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where he is a poetry editor of Copper Nickel.