The art of Myron Barnstone, a late master artist turned master teacher, will be on display through August 4 at ArtistAngle Gallery in Frederick, Maryland.
“Emotions: How Art Awakens the Soul” is a solo exhibit by Barnstone, including both pen and ink and color pieces, created mainly in Paris and Spain during the 1960s, before he put down his brushes to devote the next 35 years of his life to teaching.
It was during his years in Spain that Barnstone began feeling the full weight of the horrors of nuclear war and the Holocaust. He lost several family members during the atrocities, and was haunted by the suffering they, and millions of others, endured.
“He heard many horrible stories from the Holocaust. It very much effected how he saw the world,” explained Barnstone’s daughter Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran. “His inspiration was to remind people not to let this happen again.”
With a ferocious intensity, Barnstone painted canvas after canvas depicting twisted, tortured faces and bodies. His brushes and pens captured people trapped in boxes, suspended on poles, writhing in agony, or lying in silent death in heart-rending detail. But the world would never see those images. Instead, Barnstone torched hundreds of the paintings and drawings right before he moved to Paris.
There, resituated in his new studio, Barnstone once again tackled the overwhelming emotions of war. In a dizzying six-week period, he recreated many of the Holocaust images he’d destroyed. Those pieces were unveiled during Barnstone’s widely acclaimed 1967 “the survivors” show at The American Church in Paris. Barnstone tacked strings of lights in tin cans on the ceiling of the catacombs of the church to recreate the emotions people felt as they crouched in dimly lit shelters, fighting to survive.
Widely acclaimed by critics and the European media, “the survivors” show was extended to nine weeks. After the huge success of that exhibit, the paintings were immediately locked away, not to be seen again until the ArtistAngle Gallery exhibit this summer.
“This show in July is my dad’s first one-man show in 50 years,” explained Szafran.
Barnstone made the difficult decision to shift from painter to teacher when he realized art classes no longer offered the precise geometric design classical masters studied for years before creating their iconic works. When Barnstone decided to move his family to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and start teaching a new generation of artists, he burned or locked away hundreds of his own pieces so he would never unduly influence his students’ creative vision.
After Barnstone passed away at the age of 83 in 2016, Szafran took on the responsibility of becoming the new director of Barnstone Studios, and continued sharing Barnstone’s recorded classes with serious art students through the studio’s website. She also started revealing some of Barnstone’s work to the world.
“I really felt that the world needed to see the Holocaust pieces because of the political climate, to be reminded that this all happened recently,” Szafran said. “Many of these pieces are absolutely timeless.”
Some original Barnstone works, and limited edition prints of selected paintings and drawings, will be available for sale at ArtistAngle. All come with a numbered and signed certificate of authenticity with proceeds from the sales going to support art education materials at barnstonestudios.com.
“I’m very proud to be carrying on his legacy and am so pleased at how much support I’ve had from hundreds of his students from all over the world,” Szafran said. “I’m blessed.”
By Kol HaBirah Staff