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In This Issue In This Issue - North Carolina Agricultural and ...

In This Issue In This Issue - North Carolina Agricultural and ...

Artist givesF E A T U R

Artist givesF E A T U R EBY NETTIE COLLINS ROWLANDL i f eS throughc u l p t u rJames Barnhill, an adjunctp rofessor in No rth Caro l i n aAgricultural and Technical St a t eUn i ve r s i t y’s art depart m e n t ,k n ew little about Booker T.Washington when he was commissionedin 1995 to do a sculpture of there n owned educator. But since that time,he has become ve ry knowledgeable ofWashington and his many contributionsto society.Ba r n h i l l’s portrait bust of thehistorical figure has been mounted on a5-foot granite pedestal and placed at theBooker T. Washington Na t i o n a lMonument in Ha rd y, Va. The inscriptionon the sculpture reads BookerTa l i a f e r ro Washington 1856 – 1915, “AR ACE, LIKE AN INDIVIDUA L ,L I F TS ITSELF UP BY LIFTINGOTHERS UP.”Barnhill was contracted by re t i re deducator Mae Cynthia Lee to do thebust, which was unveiled June 24 duringWa s h i n g t o n’s family reunion.“I was honored to do a sculpture ofBooker T. Washington,” said 44-ye a r - o l dBarnhill. “I was thrilled to meet some ofhis descendants during his familyreunion and delighted that they liked theb u s t . ”Barnhill, who has read a number ofbooks about Washington said, “It amaze sme as to where he came from and whathe rose to be. He must have worked hardand stayed with his quest. Wa s h i n g t o nhad great dignity.”It took the art professor approx i-mately six to seven months to completethe sculpture. It was not an easy task.“I only had two photographs tow o rk from,” Ba r n h i l lsaid. “I had to rely onwhat I knew about thehuman form. It ise x t remely hard tow o rk from photos andmuch easier to workf rom a live model.”Born in Asheville,N.C., Barnhill begindrawing when he wasfour years old. T h ea rtist believes he inheritedtalent from hisf a t h e r, whom he saidhad the gift but neve rpursued it seriously.Barnhill re c e i ve dan art degree in educationfrom theUn i versity of No rt hC a rolina at ChapelHill in 1977. He discove red his love fors c u l p t u re in 1980while pursuing a maste r’s degree in fine art sf rom the Un i versity ofNo rth Carolina atGre e n s b o ro.“I was taking ab reak from one of mypainting classes, whenI went to a sculpture class and saw somestudents working on a bust,” Ba r n h i l lsaid. “I was so intrigued that I asked myteacher if I could finish my course dow nSculptor James Barnhill stands next tohis latest creation, a bust of Booker T.Washington – the former slave whofounded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.4 A&T TODAY/FALL 2000

A&T TODAY/FALL 2000stairs. He agre e d . ”Barnhill ended up gettinghis degree in sculpture .Re n owned artist Pe t e rAgostini is the personBarnhill credits with teachinghim the art of sculpturing.“I learned the secret off i g u r a t i ve sculpture fro mPe t e r,” he said.Barnhill describes sculptingas putting together thousandsof drawings that all fittogether and are taken fro mmany points of view.When it comes to sculptinghe loves doing the humanf i g u re .“The viewers immediatelyidentify with the subject,”he explained. “T h e recan be a certain quietness and even thepose itself can be expre s s i ve.”Having a career as a sculptor issomething Barnhill admits isn’t easy.“When I re c e i ved my master’s ins c u l p t u re in 1982, I had to figure outh ow to make a living with it,” he said.His first real commission came in1 991 on the day his son was born.That was the day he was commissionedby Birmingham Botanical Ga rdensin Birmingham, Ala., to do thes c u l p t u re, Ec h o.Ba r n h i l l’s works range in size fro mtabletop to monumental. He has successfullyexecuted work for corporate,public, liturgical and garden settings.Most recently Barnhill collaboratedwith Randy Hudson of Ha yes LargeA rchitects and a citizen group inMontoursville, Pa., to create The Angel ofMo n t o u r s v i l l e, a monument honoringthe lives of 16 high school students andf i ve chaperones from Montoursville, allof whom we re lost aboard TWA Fl i g h t800 in 1996. The angel stands atop an8-foot granite case just inside a ring of21 maples spaced 21 feet apart.Another one of Ba r n h i l l’s sculptu res, Christ the He a l e r, a slightly ove rl i f e - s i ze bro n ze piece, was commissionedby Mission Hospital Regional Me d i c a lCenter in Mission Viejo, Ca. in 1997.Barnhill has completed many others c u l p t u res but his favorite is Ro b i n, oneof his early pieces.“ It says what I am allabout in the quietness ofmy work,” he said. “Ithas a nice attitude aboutit, and draws you to it.” ■Some of Barnhill’s other works include (left to right) Little Sipper (1995), which wascommissioned for the City of Asheville, N.C.; Christ the Healer (1997),commissioned for Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, Mission Viejo, Calif.;and The Angel of Montoursville (1999), a monument in Montoursville, Pa., honoringthe lives of 21 Montoursville citizens lost aboard TWA Flight 800 in 1996.5

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