An interview with Craig “Skibs” Barker
Craig “Skibs” Barker grew up in Southern California during the early ’80s in the midst of both the punk rock and surfing culture explosions. With a healthy dose of punk flyers, album covers, and surfing magazines buzzing through his head, Barker began making flyers and t-shirts for his friends and his own punk bands. Fast-forward to today; Barker’s most recent paintings infuse his long-standing love for painting and rendering the human female figure with his punk-fueled graphic design. Mixing different approaches, techniques, and mediums, he creates a sense of memory, personal history, and appreciation for the female form. Combining elements of pop culture, literary censorship, and a positive mental attitude, he creates layered scenes of voyeuristic mischief. Barker’s work explores the junctions between past and present, memory and imagination, fantasy and reality, while creating a dialog between image and viewer.
Barker’s work has shown around Southern California in such galleries as Ghetto Gloss, The Hive Gallery, C.A.V.E. Gallery, Koo’s Art Center, J. Flynn Gallery and the bi-monthly Cannibal Flower event. Barker’s work was also recently profiled at the Beyond Eden New Contemporary Art Fair in Los Angeles.
Please talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for “Sight For Sore Eyes”? What’s the story with the show’s title?
The general “vibe” in my most recent paintings is interpersonal relationships. I like to investigate the foundation of relationships. How these connections become anchored in both a physical location and an emotional sense of “home”. And, I like legs!
As for the show title, it’s like in the old movies when the dame would walk into the bar and the barflies would say “well, isn’t she a sight for sore eyes”. That sense of nostalgia is also something I try to bring into my paintings. Nostalgia and memory play a huge role in relationships and family, like an old family photo album.
Much of your work includes the use of old Polaroid pictures. Are these photos you’ve taken yourself or do you go about collecting these at garage sales/swamp meets?
I take all of the Polaroids myself. It started when I wanted to get a different perspective on my paintings while I was working on them. My wife gave me my stepdaughters old “Spice Girls” Polaroid camera and I would shoot cheap grainy images of the progress of the work. The pictures started piling up, so I started adding them to the paintings. The result was what guided me toward the theme of relationships and memories. Old Polaroids and photos always seem to have a kind of voyeuristic nostalgia. The other, non-Polaroid, photographs in my paintings are either from garage/estate sales or from my personal family archives.
If you had an unlimited budget and time was not an issue, what grand artistic vision would you look to bring to life?
I am really enjoying the direction I’ve been headed in lately. I would just push the scale of the paintings and add some more sculptural elements to the collage aspect of the work.
If you could stand by and watch the creation of any piece of artwork from over the years, which would it be and why?
I thought about this one for a while and wanted to say something deep like Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. But, I’m afraid of heights and I’d get a stiff neck looking up at that thing all the time. So, I figured the most action and fun would be to watch Paul McCarthy create “Caribbean Pirates”. Yargh…ahoy matey!!!
What do you consider your biggest overall influence?
My biggest overall influence would have to be when and where I grew up. Growing up in Huntington Beach, CA during the explosions of both punk rock and surfing culture really guided me in directions both extremely creative and extremely self-destructive. The punk aesthetic of slogans spray-painted with block, stencil lettering carries over into my work to this day. And, I can’t go anywhere around here without seeing palm trees and power lines which continue to pop up in my work all the time.
I know you have roots in the SoCal underground music scene. Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? Current favorite?
Yeah, I listen to all kinds of music while painting. It kinda depends on what I’m doing in the studio that dictates what I listen to. When I’m doing a lot of action based collage/under-painting stuff I tend to listen to energetic music, mostly some kind of classic or hardcore punk like The Clash or The Bad Brains… or maybe some of the newer hardcore bands like The Regulations. When I’m painting the figures and need to concentrate and be more detailed oriented I tend to listen to something a bit quieter like Nick Cave, Tom Waits, or some Dub Reggae like King Tubby. I also like to listen to a lot of weird music while I paint… obscure French pop like Francoise Hardy… old Jazz or Blues stuff like Oscar Peterson or Mississippi John Hurt. But, for the most part, it’s whatever isn’t too scratched or covered in sawdust to play that I listen to.
As far as a current favorite goes, they aren’t new, but I’ve been on a big Guided By Voices kick lately.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Southern California?
The beach for sure…being able to surf before work when the waves are good is fantastic. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, lived in other cities/countries, but I always miss the beach and come back to it. It definitely has that sense of “home” for me.
You and your wife are also quite the art collectors, having amassed a very nice collection and I don’t think you’ll be slowing anytime soon (if you’re like us). What’s your favorite piece from your collection currently? Who’s on your ‘list’ for the coming year?
You had to get me started on collecting…this is gonna be a long one!!! Our collection is kinda broken up into 4 different sections…prints, underground artists, photographs, and established artists. That makes it kinda hard to pick just 1. So, I’ll pick 1 from each section…my interview, my rules! My favorite print is our Chloe Early… favorite underground artist our L. Croskey… favorite photograph is our April Falling… favorite established artists is a toss up between our Ian Francis and our Dave Kinsey. The favorites all switch from day to day though…ask me tomorrow and you may get a whole different list.
My wife, Kristen, and I have had our eye on Jason Shawn Alexander for a while, but haven’t bought one just yet. So, he is definitely on our “list” for this coming year. We’re running out of wall space!
What have you got coming up in terms of shows after your show with us?
I’ve got a painting in a group show the night after my opening with you all, on Sat. Nov. 7th, in Washington D.C. at Art Whino Gallery… that show is then traveling to Art Basel in Miami Fl. in Dec. I’m super stoked to be a part of the Juxtapoz Magazine 15th Anniversary Auction Show on Nov. 14th. I’m also in the United C.A.T. group show in Fullerton CA. in the end of Nov. Then in Jan. 2010 I’m in a group show at the C.A.V.E. Gallery in Venice CA. and hopefully more shows with you there at Thinkspace (including our January ‘A Cry For Help’ benefit for endangered species).
Look for an interview to be posted with Hurley in the coming weeks as well – we’ll be sure to post a link here once it’s live for all to check out. Also, in case you missed, check out a recent interview Juxtapoz did with ‘Skibs’ here.
Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker
‘Sight For Sore Eyes’ (’Fresh Faces’ series)
On View: Nov. 6th – Nov. 27th, 2009
View the works featured in ‘Sight For Sore Eyes’ from Craig “Skibs” Barker:
We’ll be getting in a half dozen or so new works from Barker this weekend (some of which are pictured/noted above). After the huge demand created by the recent opening of ‘Sight For Sore Eyes’, we asked Craig to bring us in some more work – please email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in receiving info and images on the new works coming in from Barker.