Toby Barnes, “Altared States” at Yellow Peril Gallery

I am always excited for an opening at the Yellow Peril Gallery. Part of this bias could be due to the fact that I know the owners and that they are LOVELY people. On top of that, I usually find that the quality of art they exhibit meets my tastes or at the very least is of world class caliber. This particular opening will most definitely stand out in my mind.
When entering the gallery, not only was I visually stimulated, but my olfactory glands were hit by the aroma of incense. It was a night to experience for sure. The exhibiting artist, Toby Barnes, explores the making of sacred traditions in everyday, modern life through means of mixed media work paired with altar installations.


While the altars acted as a gateway for easy understanding of the artist’s intent, I felt like the large scale, mixed media work was far more engaging. My initial assumption was that it was all digitally worked, but the layering of paint over the photographic imagery was pointed out to me and changed my perceptions of the artist’s process and intent. The near seamless illusion of perfect symmetry with some of these forms were quite impressive. The layering involved of paint and imagery prompted a personal mind game of looking for evidence of brush strokes that were certainly not to be found by my sharp eyes.

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Speaking with the artist added to the experience of the exhibition. Mr. Barnes was a gracious host, thanking us on multiple occasions for coming to see his work. In speaking we were able to connect parallels in Latino Catholicism to the Hindu and Buddhist aesthetic found in his work. As a native of Miami, he was surrounded by these influences and felt more at home there with his traditions than he more likely would have been in another community. Mr. Barnes also expressed a new found passion in his change of media from strictly painting. By changing up his process and trying new things he had discovered depths to his work that he I work with another artist for whom a similar process of working with different media from day to day has kept her creativity levels constant. It really is a great way to keep oneself from getting bored.

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One of the many unique traits of the Yellow Peril Gallery is that they usually break away from the usual gallery food arrangement. You know, grapes, cheese, crackers, wine, etc (Not that I don’t enjoy the standard fare!)\. They had Asian street food that included what I thought to be a “ricier” rice cracker (this amused the curator), a spicy seafood dish, and colorful little packs of what was only titled “Jelly” in English.
If you’re looking for superb contemporary art in Providence, Yellow Peril is definitely one of the better stops to hit up. It certainly is my favorite and I try not to miss an opening if I can help it! I have become one of their “regulars” and it has been a pleasure meeting the other regular members of their audience. They’re located at The Plant in Olneyville and I was fortunate to meet their neighbors who run GRIN next door that night, so do expect me to visit there more frequently as well.

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