Art Editor J.M. Jansen discusses Issue 21's featured artist, Daniel Barrow:
In contemporary society, technology has the power to connect us in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed possible twenty years ago. Through the internet we have a method of fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive communication with almost anyone in the world. Simultaneously, technology can create isolation. Individuals choose to relate to electronic devices in their hands or on their laps instead of interacting with the person sitting beside them. Daniel Barrow’s work illuminates this problematic absurdity. Using antiquated technology paired with storytelling Daniel replaces isolation with empathy and connects people through the shared experience of performance.
Barrow’s performances are like graphic novels coming to life in the present moment. Armed with an overhead projector, drawings, and music, he creates a sense of intimacy between the audience and the characters in his stories. Using animated gestures and viewer interaction, Barrow tells tales involving gender transmutations, bizarre fantasies, and desperate obsessions.
Upon winning the Sobey Award, Canada’s most prestigious prize for young artists, the jury described Barrow’s work as “Wry, politically astute, and strangely heartbreaking.” Loneliness is an ongoing theme in many of his pieces. Barrow develops fragile characters with qualities that are found in everyone, but exaggerated. In one story a woman is so eager for something to love that she constructs an imaginary baby using a bag of onions. In another tale, a character with chronic eye infections digs through people’s trash in order to find connection to others. Barrow’s audience relates easily with these characters as it would be difficult to find an individual who has never felt a similar longing for love and companionship.
In some of the most moving moments of his performances, characters communicate statements that many of us think but rarely admit. In one scene, a woman slowly writes, “I just want to be touched” on a sheet of paper. Her longing expresses that touch is a basic human need, and one we all deserve. Barrow states, “I’m just trying to say those things that people in their daily lives find it so difficult to express.” He suggests that, ultimately, he desires his work to connect us back to our humanity.
Daniel Barrow uses obsolete technologies to present written, pictorial and cinematic narratives centering on the practices of drawing and collecting. Since 1993, he has created and adapted comic book narratives to “manual” forms of animation by projecting, layering, and manipulating drawings on overhead projectors.
His performance work expands upon dualistic, universal themes: good vs. evil, shame vs. pride, experience vs. innocence, and the balancing of one’s belief in miracles with an increasingly bleak, and rapidly advancing future. All of his work aims to collide popular imagery from the cultural and digital past with emotional, usually melancholic, content; in doing so, he attempts a return to a former, primitive, or nostalgic experience of stimulus.
Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based artist Daniel Barrow has exhibited widely in Canada and abroad. He has performed at The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), PS1 Contemporary Art Center (New York), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art‚ TBA festival, and the British Film Institute (London). Barrow is the winner of the 2010 Sobey Art Award — Canada’s largest prize for young Canadian artists‚ and the 2013 Glenfiddich Artist-In- Residence Prize. He is represented by Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.
Kristi Carter has poems published or forthcoming in journals such as Spillway Magazine, So to Speak, CALYX Journal, andHawai’i Review. She is originally from the foothills of North Carolina. She currently lives in Nebraska.
Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who teaches needlepoint classes for the Minneapolis School District and writing classes at The Loft Literary Center. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Tampa Review, The Comstock Review, andSt. Paul Almanac, and she is the 2011 recipient of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize from Barton College. Her most recent published books are Walking Twin Cities andNotenlesen für Dummies Das Pocketbuch.
Jeff Golomb reluctantly abandoned his rent-controlled Manhattan apartment over twenty years ago, and relocated to Los Angeles. It was supposed to be a temporary move, so he hasn’t completely unpacked yet. He worked as casting director and casting associate on more than three dozen television and film projects. Jeff is currently exploring the worlds of memoir, fiction, and creative non-fiction. His work has appeared online at AARP.org, WeHoNews.com, and in print in West Hollywood Senior Moments.
Joshua R. Helms completed his MFA at the University of Alabama in 2013. His work has appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, Phoebe, New England Review, andRedivider, among others. His first book, Machines Like Us, won the inaugural Dzanc Poetry Collection Award (judged by C. Dale Young) and is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in September 2014. He lives with his partner & their cat.
Megan Kruse’s debut novel, Call Me Home, is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books in 2015, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert. Find her at megannicolekruse.com.
Martha Lundin is a recent graduate of Northern Michigan University where she studied English writing. She lives three blocks from a lake so large it makes its own weather. She is the proud nanny of two beautiful children and in her spare time leads tourists through the Upper Peninsula forests on horseback.
Freesia McKee is a feminist from Milwaukee. Her words have appeared in the Huffington Post, The Outrider Review, Burdock 13, ssissterss, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other venues.
This year Michael Montlack’s work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, Huffington Post, Gay and Lesbian Review, New America (anthology), and other journals. He is the author of the poetry book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books, 2011) and the editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). Montlack splits his time between NYC and Portland, OR.
Nancy Carol Moody lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is the author of Photograph With Girls (Traprock Books). Her poems have appeared in The Journal, Salamander, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, andNimrod. She has just completed a new manuscript titled The House of Nobody Home. Nancy can be found online at www.nancycarolmoody.com.
Robby Nadler is a baker for Independent Baking Co. in Athens, Georgia.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, including free e-books, and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at simonperchik.com.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry and interviews have appeared in Nimrod, Portland Review, Kestrel, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, New Plains Review, Poetry Quarterly, Boston Poetry Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Third Wednesday, Avatar Review, Vox Poetica, Main Street Rag, The Artistic Muse, South Jersey Underground, The Tower Journal, Poetry Super Highway, Lowestoft Chronicle, Eunoia Review, and many others. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices in Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poetry. He lives in Marina, California.
M. M. Pryor recently graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her short stories have appeared in Jeopardy, Tales of the Zombie War, Flashes in the Dark, andBone Parade. She lives in Seattle with her partner and is working on a chapbook, When Silver Fox Met Rage, about two vigilante superheroes who meet on a rooftop shortly after midnight and fall in love. More of her work can be found on her website, mmpryor.com.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North. Find out about U.P./MI Book Tour 2014 events at rariekki.webs.com & The Way North at wsupress. wayne.edu/books/detail/way-north. U.P./MI book tour 2014 — 23 authors, 16 events, 15 cities.
Writer and humorist Ryan Anthony Rogers serves as the Creative Director for an advertising agency based in Lafayette, Louisiana. At 25, Rogers has produced award-winning work for clients across the Gulf South. The New Orleans native is also a contributing writer for ProfessionGal.com and the creator of ExboyfriendMaterial.com, a gay-themed personal blog with global readership.
Nicole Santalucia is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Binghamton University. She founded a literary outreach program in 2011 — The Binghamton Poetry Project — and continues to work as the project’s director. Nicole won the 2013 Ruby Irene Chapbook Prize from Arcadia Magazine Inc. for Driving Yourself to Jail in July — published in January 2014. Her non-fiction and poetry appear in The Cincinnati Review, Paterson Literary Review, Bayou Magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Burlesque Press, and others. Nicole received honorable mention awards from Astraea Lesbian Foundation Writers Fund as well as the Allen Ginsberg Award.
Lela Scott MacNeil holds a BFA in Screenwriting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona. She works for the University of Arizona Press and teaches at the Writers Studio Tucson. Her work is forthcoming from Gutter Books.
Per Wiger has studied creative writing at Cornell College and the University of Iowa and his work has been previously published by 365 Tomorrows and Nevermet Press. He currently lives in Mount Vernon, Iowa, with his husband and wife and their cat Gunther.
In the beginning, there was me without you. Then you. Then the two of us.
After that, there was me without you again. And then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then them, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then him, and then that guy in Maui, and then a bisexual divorce attorney named Kyle Something.
Now, it’s me without him or you, and sometimes without myself. Thankfully, I don’t know loneliness, so I don’t ever feel isolated when it’s me without you or him. I just sleep alone and read more and eat less and spread love around to the people who aren’t too far away. I take work home with me and stay late at the office, occasionally stepping outside to smoke cigarettes and feel crowded by the stars. This isn’t making do. This isn’t trying to pass for busy. I’m not channeling anything. I just operate outside of us, now.
I still miss you, though. I miss the beginning; not the way-way back, but the time when it was the two of us. Before it was me without you for the first time. I miss the way I felt when you stood next to me in my parents’ living room; you meeting mom and dad for the first time. We were in the place I grew up, with the people who raised and nurtured me from birth, but for some reason, standing only inches away from you while you talked to my mother about your dreams to one day own your own architecture firm, I felt like a piece of your mass. You didn’t notice, but I rocked back on my heels and let my shoulder blade graze your chest. You were so much bigger than me, and you made me feel small. But not insignificantly small; small in the way that I could live in your orbit and eventually collide with you. I remember wishing I could see us the way my mom saw us: your body framing mine with the light from the ceiling fan bouncing off of me and onto you and then the wall behind us. My shadow. My mountain.
And then there was the time we had sex on the floor of your townhouse. You’d just moved into the place and the furniture we’d picked out from Pier 1 was due for delivery the following morning. I was rushing to make a closing shift at Johnny Carino’s and you were sitting cross-legged on the floor of the living room, tinkering with a glass vase in an attempt to turn it into a lamp. You drilled a hole into the base and fished a cord through it, while I watched you from the kitchen, brushing my teeth over the sink, as you switched it on and blinked at the new glow. I loved you often, but I felt it profoundly in that moment. So I spat into the sink, rinsed out my mouth, and went over to kiss you goodbye. I was wearing my uniform, a black button-down tucked into black chinos, and you were in loose-fitting gym shorts and a backwards cap. You’d forsaken a shirt. And when I bent down to kiss you, you grabbed me by the shoulders and shucked me down on top of you.
You were much stronger than me, and the best I could do when you were aggressive with me was to squirm and escape. Years of high school varsity wrestling had taught me how to kick ass and defend myself, but you were well out of my weight class, and I didn’t have the upper body strength to muscle you into submission. So I usually just took your wrist and swept my legs around, pulling myself from under you and then I’d face you in a staggered stance, motioning for you to come and get me. Either that or I just let you win. In that instance on the floor of your townhouse, I let you win. My consolation prize was you. And I didn’t care that my shift had started without me and that I’d have to restyle my hair before I left. I would remember this forever. Because it would never be as good as this ever again.
When you broke up with me, you were wearing a shirt the color of Merlot and it was somewhere around four in the evening on a Sunday. We didn’t cry and we didn’t make a lot of eye contact. I didn’t accept your hug and let you leave without so much as a “fuck you.” Then, I changed my outfit, met my friends for drinks and met someone else. He was everything you weren’t: skinny, simple, present, unburdened, stupid, loving, modest, unobtrusive, innocent, and happy. I loved him very much, and after he moved away, we tried to make it work until I broke his heart like you broke mine, and a few days later, I received a letter in the mail with an engagement ring inside. You would’ve hated it. No diamonds or anything. But I loved it, and I let it break me down.
He was the first in a long list of your successors, but he was the only one to live in your wake. You don’t haunt me like you used to, but sometimes I wish you would. I still scan pictures for your face and survey parking lots for your car. Your absence has made you more present than ever before.
And every now and then, I have to face that reality. I have to close my eyes and relive old memories. I have to allow myself to love you from afar. I have to write all this down, and be honest with my words, and hope you’ll read it, and hope you’ll miss me, and hope you’ll show up. I have to take long drives, and pick out specific pieces of sky to focus on, and put all my dreams there. Maybe you’ve picked out the same patch. Maybe they can live there together, on a plane far and away from us.
Far and away from you and me.