By Hannah Dellinger email@example.com
Myron Barnstone was afraid to show his artwork to the public.
He didn’t think the world was ready for his intricate ink and color pieces depicting twisted bodies writhing in pain, people trapped in boxes and tortured faces reminiscent of scenes from a nuclear holocaust.
“Before he died, there was almost a show in Maine,” said Catherine Barnstone Szafran, his daughter. “And at the time, he said, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for the world to see my work. It’s pretty dark. I might scare people.’ And I think that’s kind of part of why he passed when he did: because it was time to get his work out. He did not want to see people’s reactions.”
Barnstone’s work was displayed in a solo exhibit for the first time in 50 years in “Emotions: How Art Awakens the Soul” gallery opening on Sunday at The ArtistAngle Gallery in Frederick. His daughter brought his unique and vividly surreal pieces back to life after they had been locked away out of sight for years. Now, Barnstone Szafran is selling her father’s paintings and prints to support an initiative to continue his legacy through learning programs and scholarships for artists.
The artist was internationally-known until the mid-70s, his daughter said. At that point, he became a single father and wanted to give up being a professional artist to spend more time with his daughter. So, he opened an art school.
“He put all of his work, except for about five pieces, into storage,” Barnstone Szafran said. “And none of his students ever saw it. He didn’t want to influence how they saw things.”
Barnstone Szafran said she wants artists to continue to have access to her father’s teachings. She’s made recordings of his classes available on the Barnstone Studios website and has enlisted artists across the country as master guides in the program.
“His approach is not what today’s approach is,” the daughter explained. “Today’s approach in many ways is: Be creative. Go with the flow. As far as he was concerned, there was no creativity until you learned the language. He didn’t want to inspire anybody along this line. That wasn’t his goal. He wanted them to find their own voice.”
Barnstone’s own artistic voice was rare and raw. Even though his style was fluid through the years, he never lost his voice. From the gritty and gloomy pen sketches hanging in the gallery to the soft, floral, flowy, anatomical paintings, it’s clear they were made by Barnstone.
Barnstone Szafran, who is an accomplished photographer in her own right, learned the craft from her father. She said she hopes to honor his commitment to fostering creativity for as long as she can.
“I know he’s here,” she said, motioning around the gallery full of his work. “And I know he’s happy.”